Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a crucial proangiogenic component in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA), and its high expression levels have been correlated with poor prognosis and early postoperative recurrence. Angiotensin II (AngII), which has been shown to increase VEGF production in a variety of cancers, is actively generated in the pancreas. We hypothesized that AngII plays a crucial role in PDA-associated angiogenesis.
Study design: We analyzed the expression and localization of AngI converting enzyme (ACE) and AngII type 1 receptor (AT1R) in relation to VEGF in matched invasive human PDA (n=25) and surrounding nonmalignant tissues using real-time polymerase chain reaction, Western immunoblotting, and immunohistochemistry. VEGF levels in conditioned media of HS766T and PK9 PDA cells treated with or without AngII (10(-7) mol/L) were measured by ELISA. The effects of an AT1R blocker (losartan) and an ACE inhibitor (captopril) on VEGF production and cellular proliferation were also examined.
Results: ACE and AT1R mRNA and protein levels were significantly upregulated in 19 of the 25 neoplastic tissues examined (approximately 75%), when compared with matching controls. VEGF expression was significantly higher in tissues that expressed high levels of AT1R and ACE (n=19), compared with low levels (n=4) or negative (n=2) cases. ACE protein collocalized with AT1R and VEGF in the malignant ducts and in the stromal cells. Addition of AngII significantly enhanced VEGF mRNA production and protein secretion, an effect that was prevented when cells were preincubated with captopril or losartan. Blocking endogenous AngII by captopril or losartan significantly suppressed cell proliferation.
Conclusions: Both ACE and AT1R are functionally expressed in PDA and may be involved in tumor angiogenesis. Because AT1R blockers and ACE inhibitors are already widely used clinically, they may represent a potential novel and promising strategy for controlling angiogenesis, prevention of metastasis, and prolongation of survival in patients with primary or metastatic PDA.