Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate inhibits pancreatic carcinoma cell proliferation in vitro and in vivo

Surgery. 1997 Apr;121(4):392-7. doi: 10.1016/s0039-6060(97)90308-1.


Background: Dehydroepiandrosterone-sulfate (DHEA-S) is a potent inhibitor of glucose-6 phosphate dehydrogenase, the rate limiting enzyme of the hexose monophosphate shunt, a biochemical pathway that provides substrate for DNA synthesis in neoplastic tissue. DHEA-S has been shown to inhibit the growth of neoplasms arriving from human skin, lung, colon, and mammary tissue. This study evaluates the effect of DHEA-S on human pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro and in vivo.

Methods: In vitro, the human pancreatic adenocarcinoma cell lines MiaPaCa-2, Capan-1, Capan-2, CAV and Panc-1 were treated with concentrations of 1.9 mumol/L to 1000 mumol/L DHEA-S in 1% dimethylsulfoxide (DMSO) for 5 consecutive days. Cell proliferation was determined by a nonradioactive cell proliferation assay and compared with DMSO treated controls. In vivo testing was performed by inoculating two cell lines, MiaPaCa-2 and Panc-I, into the flank of 40 male nude athymic mice in four study groups. After 1 week of growth, 667 mg/kg DHEA-S in 1% DMSO or 0.2 ml 1% DMSO alone in the control group was administered by daily intraperitoneal injection. Body weight and tumor size was recorded weekly, and tumor weight was measured after 3 weeks of treatment.

Results: In vitro cell proliferation was decreased in the five cell lines by 36% to 62% of controls (p < 0.001) at 500 mumol/L DHEA-S. In vivo, after 2 weeks, tumor size was only 76% (p < 0.008) and 67% (p < 0.005) of the controls. After 3 weeks of treatment, tumor size was 73% (p < 0.001) and 53% (p < 0.001) of controls, and tumor weight was decreased by 73% in MiaPaCa-2 (p < 0.001) and 66% in Panc-1 (p < 0.001). Radioimmunoassay measurements of DHEA-S and testosterone from DHEA-S treated mouse plasma showed a significant increase in circulating levels of these hormones.

Conclusions: DHEA-S achieves high serum levels after intraperitoneal injection without elevation of serum testosterone levels and produces no significant toxicity. Treatment with DHEA-S results in a significant reduction of proliferation of human pancreatic cancer cells in culture and when grown as subcutaneous tumors in athymic nude mice.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / blood
  • Adenocarcinoma / drug therapy*
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Cell Division / drug effects
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / blood
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate / pharmacology*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / blood
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Dehydroepiandrosterone Sulfate