SPARC dependent collagen deposition and gemcitabine delivery in a genetically engineered mouse model of pancreas cancer

EBioMedicine. 2019 Oct;48:161-168. doi: 10.1016/j.ebiom.2019.09.024. Epub 2019 Oct 6.


Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterised by extensive matrix deposition that has been implicated in impaired drug delivery and therapeutic resistance. Secreted protein acidic and rich in cysteine (SPARC) is a matricellular protein that regulates collagen deposition and is highly upregulated in the activated stroma subtype with poor prognosis in PDAC patients.

Methods: KrasG12D;p48-Cre;SPARC-/- (KC-SPARC-/-) and KrasG12D;p48-Cre;SPARCWT (KC-SPARCWT) were generated and analysed at different stages of carcinogenesis by histological grading, immunohistochemistry for epithelial and stromal markers, survival and preclinical analysis. Pharmacokinetic and pharmacodynamic studies were conducted by liquid chromatography-tandem mass spectrometry (LC-MS/MS) and immunohistochemistry following gemcitabine treatment (100 mg/kg) in vivo.

Findings: Global genetic ablation of SPARC in a KrasG12D driven mouse model resulted in significantly reduced overall and mature collagen deposition around early and advanced pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN) lesions and in invasive PDAC (p < .001). However, detailed pathological scoring and molecular analysis showed no effects on PanIN to PDAC progression, vessel density (CD31), tumour incidence, grading or metastatic frequency. Despite comparable tumour kinetics, ablation of SPARC resulted in a significantly shortened survival in KC-SPARC-/- mice (280 days versus 485 days, p < .03, log-rank-test). Using LC-MS/MS, we show that SPARC dependent collagen deposition does not affect intratumoural gemcitabine accumulation or immediate therapeutic response in tumour bearing KC-SPARCWT and KC-SPARC-/-mice.

Interpretation: Global SPARC ablation reduces the collagen-rich microenvironment in murine PDAC. Moreover, global SPARC depletion did not affect tumour growth kinetics, grading or metastatic frequency. Notably, the dense-collagen matrix did not restrict access of gemcitabine to the tumour. These findings may have direct translational implications in clinical trial design.

Keywords: Chemoresistance; Collagen; Drug delivery; Pancreatic cancer; SPARC.

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / pharmacology*
  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic / therapeutic use
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Collagen / metabolism*
  • Deoxycytidine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Deoxycytidine / pharmacology
  • Deoxycytidine / therapeutic use
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Disease Progression
  • Gemcitabine
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Transgenic
  • Osteonectin / genetics*
  • Osteonectin / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / etiology*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism*


  • Antimetabolites, Antineoplastic
  • Osteonectin
  • SPARC protein, human
  • Deoxycytidine
  • Collagen
  • Gemcitabine