The overwhelming majority of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is not diagnosed until the cancer has metastasized, leading to an abysmal average life expectancy (3-6 months post-diagnosis). Earlier detection and more effective treatments have been hampered by inadequate understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms controlling metastasis. We hypothesized that metastasis suppressors are involved in controlling metastasis in pancreatic cancer. Using an unbiased genome-wide shRNA screen, an shRNA library was transduced into the non-metastatic PDAC line S2-028 followed by intrasplenic injection. Resulting liver metastases were individually isolated from these mice. One liver metastatic nodule contained shRNA for ITIH5 (Inter-alpha-trypsin inhibitor heavy chain 5), suggesting that ITIH5 may act as a metastasis suppressor. Consistent with this notion, metastatic PDAC cell lines had significantly lower protein expression of ITIH5 compared to immortalized pancreatic ductal epithelial cells and non-/poorly-metastatic PDAC cell lines. By manipulating expression of ITIH5 in different PDAC cell lines (over-expression in metastatic, knockdown in non-metastatic) functional and selective regulation of metastasis was observed for ITIH5. Orthotopic tumor growth of PDAC cells was not blocked following orthotopic injection. In vitro ITIH5 over-expression inhibited motility and invasion. Immunohistochemical analysis of a human PDAC tissue microarray revealed that ITIH5 expression inversely correlated with both survival and invasion/metastasis. ITIH5 is, therefore, functionally validated as a PDAC metastasis suppressor and shows promise as a prognostic biomarker.
Keywords: ITIH5; Metastasis suppressor; Pancreatic cancer; RNAi screen.