Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Craig Logsdon

Committee Member

Susan Fischer

Committee Member

Rosa Hwang

Committee Member

Suyun Huang

Committee Member

Paul Chiao


Pancreatic cancer is one of the most lethal type of cancer due to its high metastasis rate and resistance to chemotherapy. Pancreatic fibrosis is a constant pathological feature of chronic pancreatitis and the hyperactive stroma associated with pancreatic cancer. Strong evidence supports an important role of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) and COX-2 generated prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) during pancreatic fibrosis. Pancreatic stellate cells (PSC) are the predominant source of extracellular matrix production (ECM), thus being the key players in both diseases. Given this background, the primary objective is to delineate the role of PGE2 on human pancreatic stellate cells (PSC) hyper activation associated with pancreatic cancer.

This study showed that human PSC cells express COX-2 and synthesize high levels of PGE2. PGE2 stimulated PSC migration and invasion; expression of extra cellular matrix (ECM) genes and tissue degrading matrix metallo proteinases (MMP) genes. I further identified the PGE2 EP receptor responsible for mediating these effects on PSC. Using genetic and pharmacological approaches I identified the receptor required for PGE2 mediates PSC hyper activation. Treating PSC with Specific antagonists against EP1, EP2 and EP4, demonstrated that blocking EP4 receptor only, resulted in a complete reduction of PGE2 mediated PSC activation. Furthermore, siRNA mediated silencing of EP4, but not other EP receptors, blocked the effects of PGE2 on PSC fibrogenic activity. Further examination of the downstream pathway modulators revealed that PGE2 stimulation of PSC involved CREB and not AKT pathway.

The regulation of PSC by PGE2 was further investigated at the molecular level, with a focus on COL1A1. Collagen I deposition by PSC is one of the most important events in pancreatic cancer. I found that PGE2 regulates PSC through activation of COL1A1 expression and transcriptional activity. Downstream of PGE2, silencing of EP4 receptor caused a complete reduction of COL1A1 expression and activity supporting the role of EP4 mediated stimulation of PSC. Taken together, this data indicate that PGE2 regulates PSC via EP4 and suggest that EP4 can be a better therapeutic target for pancreatic cancer to reduce the extensive stromal reaction, possibly in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs can further kill pancreatic cancer cells.


pancreatic cancer, stellate cells, prostaglandin, stroma