Induction of endoplasmic reticular stress by bortezomib: A novel therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer

Steffan Todd Nawrocki, The University of Texas Graduate School of Biomedical Sciences at Houston


Bortezomib (VELCADE™, formerly known as PS-341) is a selective and potent inhibitor of the proteasome that was recently FDA-approved for the treatment of multiple myeloma. Despite its success in multiple myeloma and progression into clinical trials for other malignancies, bortezomib's exact mechanism of action remains undefined. The major objective of this study was to evaluate the anticancer activity of this drug using in vitro and in vivo pancreatic cancer models and determine whether bortezomib-induced apoptosis occurs via induction of endoplasmic reticular (ER) stress. The investigation revealed that bortezomib inhibited tumor cell proliferation via abrogation of cdk activity and induced apoptosis in pancreatic cancer cell lines. I hypothesized that bortezomib-induced apoptosis was triggered by a large accumulation ubiquitin-conjugated proteins that resulted in ER stress. My data demonstrated that bortezomib induced a unique type of ER stress in that it inhibited PKR-like ER kinase (PERK) and subsequent phosphorylation of eukaryotic initiation factor 2α (eif2α), a key event in translational suppression. The combined effects of proteasome inhibition and the failure to attenuate translation resulted in an accumulation of aggregated proteins (proteotoxicity), JNK activation, cytochrome c release, caspase-3 activation, and DNA fragmentation. Bortezomib also enhanced apoptosis induced by other agents that stimulated the unfolded protein response (UPR), demonstrating that translational suppression is a critical cytoprotective mechanism during ER stress. Tumor cells attempt to survive bortezomib-induced ER stress by sequestering aggregated proteins into large structures, termed aggresomes. Since histone deacetylase 6 (HDAC6) is essential for aggresome formation, tumor cells may be sensitized to bortezomib-induced apoptosis by blocking HDAC function. My results demonstrated that HDAC inhibitors disrupted aggresome formation and synergized with bortezomib to induce apoptosis in pancreatic cancer or multiple myeloma cells in vitro and in orthotopic pancreatic tumors in vivo. Taken together, my data establish a mechanistic link between bortezomib-induced aggresome formation, ER stress, and apoptosis and identify a novel therapeutic strategy for the treatment of pancreatic cancer and other hematologic and solid malignancies.

Subject Area

Cellular biology|Oncology|Pharmacology

Recommended Citation

Nawrocki, Steffan Todd, "Induction of endoplasmic reticular stress by bortezomib: A novel therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer" (2005). Texas Medical Center Dissertations (via ProQuest). AAI3168444.