Pharmacologic Activation of the G Protein-Coupled Estrogen Receptor Inhibits Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma

Cell Mol Gastroenterol Hepatol. 2020 May 4;S2352-345X(20)30066-7. doi: 10.1016/j.jcmgh.2020.04.016. Online ahead of print.


Background & aims: Female sex is associated with lower incidence and improved clinical outcomes for most cancer types including pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). The mechanistic basis for this sex difference is unknown. We hypothesized that estrogen signaling may be responsible, despite the fact that PDAC lacks classic nuclear estrogen receptors.

Methods: Here we used murine syngeneic tumor models and human xenografts to determine that signaling through the nonclassic estrogen receptor G protein-coupled estrogen receptor (GPER) on tumor cells inhibits PDAC.

Results: Activation of GPER with the specific, small molecule, synthetic agonist G-1 inhibited PDAC proliferation, depleted c-Myc and programmed death ligand 1 (PD-L1), and increased tumor cell immunogenicity. Systemically administered G-1 was well-tolerated in PDAC bearing mice, induced tumor regression, significantly prolonged survival, and markedly increased the efficacy of PD-1 targeted immune therapy. We detected GPER protein in a majority of spontaneous human PDAC tumors, independent of tumor stage.

Conclusions: These data, coupled with the wide tissue distribution of GPER and our previous work showing that G-1 inhibits melanoma, suggest that GPER agonists may be useful against a range of cancers that are not classically considered sex hormone responsive and that arise in tissues outside of the reproductive system.

Keywords: G Protein-Coupled Estrogen Receptor; GPER; PDAC; Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma.