Catecholamines stimulate epithelial proliferation, but the role of sympathetic nerve signaling in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is poorly understood. Catecholamines promoted ADRB2-dependent PDAC development, nerve growth factor (NGF) secretion, and pancreatic nerve density. Pancreatic Ngf overexpression accelerated tumor development in LSL-Kras+/G12D;Pdx1-Cre (KC) mice. ADRB2 blockade together with gemcitabine reduced NGF expression and nerve density, and increased survival of LSL-Kras+/G12D;LSL-Trp53+/R172H;Pdx1-Cre (KPC) mice. Therapy with a Trk inhibitor together with gemcitabine also increased survival of KPC mice. Analysis of PDAC patient cohorts revealed a correlation between brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) expression, nerve density, and increased survival of patients on nonselective β-blockers. These findings suggest that catecholamines drive a feedforward loop, whereby upregulation of neurotrophins increases sympathetic innervation and local norepinephrine accumulation.
Keywords: NGF-BDNF; TRK; adrenergic signaling; neurotrophins; pancreatic cancer; stress; β-blockers.
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