Improved chemosensitivity following mucolytic therapy in patient-derived models of mucinous appendix cancer

Transl Res. 2021 Mar;229:100-114. doi: 10.1016/j.trsl.2020.10.005. Epub 2020 Oct 22.


Abundant intraperitoneal (IP) accumulation of extracellular mucus in patients with appendiceal mucinous carcinoma peritonei (MCP) causes compressive organ dysfunction and prevents delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs to cancer cells. We hypothesized that reducing extracellular mucus would decrease tumor-related symptoms and improve chemotherapeutic effect in patient-derived models of MCP. Mucolysis was achieved using a combination of bromelain (BRO) and N-acetylcysteine (NAC). Ex vivo experiments of mucolysis and chemotherapeutic drug delivery/effect were conducted with MCP and non-MCP tissue explants. In vivo experiments were performed in mouse and rat patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models of early and late (advanced) MCP. MCP tumor explants were less chemosensitive than non-MCP explants. Chronic IP administration of BRO + NAC in a mouse PDX model of early MCP and a rat PDX model of late (advanced) MCP converted solid mucinous tumors into mucinous ascites (mucolysis) that could be drained via a percutaneous catheter (rat model only), significantly reduced solid mucinous tumor growth and improved the efficacy of chemotherapeutic drugs. Combination of BRO + NAC efficiently lyses extracellular mucus in clinically relevant models of MCP. Conversion of solid mucinous tumors into mucinous ascites decreases tumor bulk and allows for minimally invasive drainage of liquified tumors. Lysis of extracellular mucus removes the protective mucinous coating surrounding cancer cells and improves chemotherapeutic drug delivery/efficacy in cancer cells. Our data provide a preclinical rationale for the clinical evaluation of BRO + NAC as a therapeutic strategy for MCP.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Acetylcysteine / administration & dosage
  • Acetylcysteine / pharmacology
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma, Mucinous / pathology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols / pharmacology*
  • Appendiceal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Appendiceal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Bromelains / administration & dosage
  • Bromelains / pharmacology
  • Drug Resistance, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Mice, Nude
  • Mucus / drug effects*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Peritoneal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Rats, Nude
  • Tissue Culture Techniques / methods
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Bromelains
  • Acetylcysteine