An orally bioavailable small-molecule inhibitor of Hedgehog signaling inhibits tumor initiation and metastasis in pancreatic cancer

Georg Feldmann, Volker Fendrich, Karen McGovern, Djahida Bedja, Savita Bisht, Hector Alvarez, Jan Bart M. Koorstra, Nils Habbe, Collins Karikari, Michael Mullendore, Kathleen L. Gabrielson, Rajni Sharma, William Matsui, Anirban Maitra

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Recent evidence suggests that blockade of aberrant Hedgehog signaling can be exploited as a therapeutic strategy for pancreatic cancer. Our previous studies using the prototype Hedgehog small-molecule antagonist cyclopamine had shown the striking inhibition of systemic metastases on Hedgehog blockade in spontaneously metastatic orthotopic xenograft models. Cyclopamine is a natural compound with suboptimal pharmacokinetics, which impedes clinical translation. In the present study, a novel, orally bioavailable small-molecule Hedgehog inhibitor, IPI-269609, was tested using in vitro and in vivo model systems. In vitro treatment of pancreatic cancer cell lines with IPI-269609 resembled effects observed using cyclopamine (i.e., Gli-responsive reporter knockdown, down-regulation of the Hedgehog target genes Gli1 and Ptch, as well as abrogation of cell migration and colony formation in soft agar). Single-agent IPI-269609 profoundly inhibited systemic metastases in orthotopic xenografts established from human pancreatic cancer cell lines, although Hedgehog blockade had minimal effect on primary tumor volume. The only discernible phenotype observed within the treated primary tumor was a significant reduction in the population of aldehyde dehydrogenase-bright cells, which we have previously identified as a clonogenic tumor-initiating population in pancreatic cancer. Selective ex vivo depletion of aldehyde dehydrogenase-bright cells with IPI-269609 was accompanied by significant reduction in tumor engraftment rates in athymic mice. Pharmacologic blockade of aberrant Hedgehog signaling might prove to be an effective therapeutic strategy for inhibition of systemic metastases in pancreatic cancer, likely through targeting subsets of cancer cells with tumor-initiating ("cancer stem cell") properties.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2725-2735
Number of pages11
JournalMolecular cancer therapeutics
Issue number9
StatePublished - 2008

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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