Targeting XIAP bypasses Bcl-2-mediated resistance to TRAIL and cooperates with TRAIL to suppress pancreatic cancer growth in vitro and in vivo

Cancer Res. 2008 Oct 1;68(19):7956-65. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-08-1296.


Resistance to apoptosis is a hallmark of pancreatic cancer, a leading cause of cancer deaths. Therefore, novel strategies are required to target apoptosis resistance. Here, we report that the combination of X-linked inhibitor of apoptosis (XIAP) inhibition and tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) is an effective approach to trigger apoptosis despite Bcl-2 overexpression and to suppress pancreatic cancer growth in vitro and in vivo. Knockdown of XIAP by RNA interference cooperates with TRAIL to induce caspase activation, loss of mitochondrial membrane potential, cytochrome c release, and apoptosis in pancreatic carcinoma cells. Loss of mitochondrial membrane potential and cytochrome c release are extensively inhibited by a broad range or caspase-3 selective caspase inhibitor and by RNAi-mediated silencing of caspase-3, indicating that XIAP inhibition enhances TRAIL-induced mitochondrial damage in a caspase-3-dependent manner. XIAP inhibition combined with TRAIL even breaks Bcl-2-imposed resistance by converting type II cells that depend on the mitochondrial contribution to the death receptor pathway to type I cells in which TRAIL-induced activation of caspase-3 and caspase-9 and apoptosis proceeds irrespective of high Bcl-2 levels. Most importantly, XIAP inhibition potentiates TRAIL-induced antitumor activity in two preclinical models of pancreatic cancer in vivo. In the chicken chorioallantoic membrane model, XIAP inhibition significantly enhances TRAIL-mediated apoptosis and suppression of tumor growth. In a tumor regression model in xenograft-bearing mice, XIAP inhibition acts in concert with TRAIL to cause even regression of established pancreatic carcinoma. Thus, this combination of XIAP inhibition plus TRAIL is a promising strategy to overcome apoptosis resistance of pancreatic cancer that warrants further investigation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / therapeutic use
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects*
  • Chick Embryo
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / genetics*
  • Drug Synergism
  • Female
  • Genes, bcl-2 / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • RNA, Small Interfering / administration & dosage*
  • RNA, Small Interfering / pharmacology
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand / administration & dosage*
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein / genetics
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • RNA, Small Interfering
  • TNF-Related Apoptosis-Inducing Ligand
  • X-Linked Inhibitor of Apoptosis Protein
  • XIAP protein, human