The Janus kinase/signal transducer and activator of transcription (JAK/STAT) pathway is one of the key signaling cascades in cholangiocarcinoma (CCA) cells, mediating their resistance to apoptosis. Our aim was to ascertain if sorafenib, a multikinase inhibitor, may also inhibit JAK/STAT signaling and, therefore, be efficacious for CCA. Sorafenib treatment of three human CCA cell lines resulted in Tyr(705) phospho-STAT3 dephosphorylation. Similar results were obtained with the Raf-kinase inhibitor ZM336372, suggesting sorafenib promotes Tyr(705) phospho-STAT3 dephosphorylation by inhibiting Raf-kinase activity. Sorafenib treatment enhanced an activating phosphorylation of the phosphatase SHP2. Consistent with this observation, small interfering RNA-mediated knockdown of phosphatase shatterproof 2 (SHP2) inhibited sorafenib-induced Tyr(705) phospho-STAT3 dephosphorylation. Sorafenib treatment also decreased the expression of Mcl-1 messenger RNA and protein, a STAT3 transcriptional target, as well as sensitizing CCA cells to tumor necrosis factor-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL)-mediated apoptosis. In an orthotopic, syngeneic CCA model in rats, sorafenib displayed significant tumor suppression resulting in a survival benefit for treated animals. In this in vivo model, sorafenib also decreased tumor Tyr(705) STAT3 phosphorylation and increased tumor cell apoptosis.
Conclusion: Sorafenib accelerates STAT3 dephosphorylation by stimulating phosphatase SHP2 activity, sensitizes CCA cells to TRAIL-mediated apoptosis, and is therapeutic in a syngeneic rat, orthotopic CCA model that mimics human disease.