Pirfenidone decreases mesothelioma cell proliferation and migration via inhibition of ERK and AKT and regulates mesothelioma tumor microenvironment in vivo

Sci Rep. 2018 Jul 3;8(1):10070. doi: 10.1038/s41598-018-28297-x.


Malignant mesothelioma is an aggressive cancer with poor prognosis. It is characterized by prominent extracellular matrix, mesenchymal tumor cell phenotypes and chemoresistance. In this study, the ability of pirfenidone to alter mesothelioma cell proliferation and migration as well as mesothelioma tumor microenvironment was evaluated. Pirfenidone is an anti-fibrotic drug used in the treatment of idiopathic pulmonary fibrosis and has also anti-proliferative activities. Mesothelioma cell proliferation was decreased by pirfenidone alone or in combination with cisplatin. Pirfenidone also decreased significantly Transwell migration/invasion and 3D collagen invasion. This was associated with increased BMP pathway activity, decreased GREM1 expression and downregulation of MAPK/ERK and AKT/mTOR signaling. The canonical Smad-mediated TGF-β signaling was not affected by pirfenidone. However, pirfenidone blocked TGF-β induced upregulation of ERK and AKT pathways. Treatment of mice harboring mesothelioma xenografts with pirfenidone alone did not reduce tumor proliferation in vivo. However, pirfenidone modified the tumor microenvironment by reducing the expression of extracellular matrix associated genes. In addition, GREM1 expression was downregulated by pirfenidone in vivo. By reducing two major upregulated pathways in mesothelioma and by targeting tumor cells and the microenvironment pirfenidone may present a novel anti-fibrotic and anti-cancer adjuvant therapy for mesothelioma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Collagen / metabolism
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism
  • Female
  • Fibroblasts / metabolism
  • Fibrosis
  • Humans
  • Lung Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Lung Neoplasms / metabolism
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / drug effects
  • MAP Kinase Signaling System / physiology
  • Mesothelioma / drug therapy
  • Mesothelioma / metabolism*
  • Mesothelioma, Malignant
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / drug effects
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt / metabolism
  • Pyridones / metabolism
  • Pyridones / pharmacology*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Tumor Microenvironment / drug effects*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Pyridones
  • Collagen
  • pirfenidone
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins c-akt