Pancreatic cancers are enriched with cancer stem-like cells (CSCs), which are resistant to chemotherapies, and responsible for tumor metastasis and recurrence. Here, we investigated the extract of a medicinal plant Pao Pereira (Pao) for its activity against pancreatic CSCs. Pao inhibited overall proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cell lines with IC50 ranging from 125 to 325 μg/mL and had limited cytotoxicity to normal epithelial cells. Pancreatic CSC population, identified using surface markers CD24+ CD44+ EpCam+ or tumor spheroid formation assay, was significantly reduced, with IC50s of ~100 μg/mL for 48 hours treatment, and ~27 μg/mL for long-term treatment. Nuclear β-catenin levels were decreased, suggesting suppression of Wnt/β-catenin signaling pathway. In vivo, Pao at 20 mg/kg, 5 times/week gavage, significantly reduced tumorigenicity of PANC-1 cells in immunocompromised mice, indicating inhibition of CSCs in vivo. Further investigation is warranted in using Pao as a novel treatment targeting pancreatic CSCs.
Keywords: Pao Pereira; cancer stem-like cells; pancreatic cancer; xenograft models.