Necuparanib, A Multitargeting Heparan Sulfate Mimetic, Targets Tumor and Stromal Compartments in Pancreatic Cancer

Mol Cancer Ther. 2019 Feb;18(2):245-256. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-18-0417. Epub 2018 Nov 6.


Pancreatic cancer has an abysmal 5-year survival rate of 8%, making it a deadly disease with a need for novel therapies. Here we describe a multitargeting heparin-based mimetic, necuparanib, and its antitumor activity in both in vitro and in vivo models of pancreatic cancer. Necuparanib reduced tumor cell proliferation and invasion in a three-dimensional (3D) culture model; in vivo, it extended survival and reduced metastasis. Furthermore, proteomic analysis demonstrated that necuparanib altered the expression levels of multiple proteins involved in cancer-driving pathways including organ development, angiogenesis, proliferation, genomic stability, cellular energetics, and invasion and metastasis. One protein family known to be involved in invasion and metastasis and altered by necuparanib treatment was the matrix metalloprotease (MMP) family. Necuparanib reduced metalloproteinase 1 (MMP1) and increased tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase 3 (TIMP3) protein levels and was found to increase RNA expression of TIMP3. MMP enzymatic activity was also found to be reduced in the 3D model. Finally, we confirmed necuparanib's in vivo activity by analyzing plasma samples of patients enrolled in a phase I/II study in patients with metastatic pancreatic cancer; treatment with necuparanib plus standard of care significantly increased TIMP3 plasma protein levels. Together, these results demonstrate necuparanib acts as a broad multitargeting therapeutic with in vitro and in vivo anti-invasive and antimetastatic activity.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / administration & dosage*
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Movement / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Clinical Trials, Phase I as Topic
  • Clinical Trials, Phase II as Topic
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Heparitin Sulfate / administration & dosage
  • Heparitin Sulfate / analogs & derivatives*
  • Heparitin Sulfate / pharmacology
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1 / metabolism*
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / genetics
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Proteomics / methods
  • Spheroids, Cellular / cytology
  • Spheroids, Cellular / drug effects
  • Spheroids, Cellular / metabolism
  • Stromal Cells / drug effects
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-3 / genetics
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-3 / metabolism*
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • M402 heparan sulfate
  • TIMP3 protein, human
  • Tissue Inhibitor of Metalloproteinase-3
  • Heparitin Sulfate
  • MMP1 protein, human
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 1