Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Human Genetics

First Advisor

Paul B. Fisher


Pancreatic cancer is a devastating disease that leaves patients with a very poor prognosis and few therapeutic options. Many of the treatment options available are the same that have been used for almost 2 decades. There is a dire need for both novel treatments for this disease as well as novel strategies of treatment. This body of work will introduce and provide evidence in support of a novel combination therapy for pancreatic cancer treatment, a novel strategy of modifying currently used chemotherapeutics for pancreatic cancer therapy, and a novel transgenic preclinical mouse model of pancreatic cancer. Sabutoclax, an antagonist of the anti-apoptotic Bcl-2 proteins, and Minocycline, a commonly used antibiotic, show potent synergy when used in combination in both pancreatic cancer cells and in multiple immune-deficient and immune-competent mouse models of pancreatic cancer. Sabutoclax alone is capable of inducing cell cycle arrest and apoptosis in cells and its cytotoxicity is enhanced significantly when combined with Minocycline. This combination results in the loss of Stat3 activation both in vitro and in vivo, which is essential for its toxicity. It also inhibits tumor growth and prolongs survival in the KPC transgenic mouse model of pancreatic cancer. Also presented here are studies that demonstrate efficacy in vivo of modified versions of Gemcitabine and Paclitaxel. These drugs are linked to a peptide that shows specificity for the EphA2 receptor, which is overexpressed on the surface of pancreatic cancer cells and only minimally on normal cells. This peptide results in increased cellular uptake of drug, as it is bypassing its normal mechanism of entry. These normal mechanisms are often dysregulated in cancer, leading to decreased uptake and drug resistance. The use of these modified drugs show significantly increased tumor growth inhibition as compared to the parent drug alone. Finally, we provide data on the characterization of a novel transgenic mouse model of pancreatic cancer. This model, the Pan Met View (PMV) mouse, combines the commonly used KPC transgenic mouse model of pancreatic cancer and a mouse that expresses a Luciferase reporter gene under the control of the cancer-specific promoter, CCN1. Our data shows that double transgenic PMV mice can now be used to follow primary tumor and metastasis development in real time by Bioluminescent imaging (BLI) through disease progression and potentially therapy. This strategy will enhance the use of genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMS) to study cancer initiation and progression with potential to non-invasively monitor therapy. These chapters present novel and exciting data that have the potential to open multiple avenues of translational study and result in significant advances in pancreatic cancer therapy.


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