Modulated Electro-Hyperthermia Supports the Effect of Gemcitabine Both in Sensitive and Resistant Pancreas Adenocarcinoma Cell Lines
The poor prognosis of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is frequently associated to high treatment resistance. Gemcitabine (GEM) alone or in combination is the most used chemotherapy for unresecable PDACs. Here we studied whether modulated electro-hyperthermia (mEHT), a non-invasive complementary treatment, can support the effect of GEM on PDAC cells . The LD20 for the GEM-resistant Panc1 cells proved to be 200× higher than for the drug-sensitive Capan1. The mEHT alone caused significant apoptosis in Capan1 cultures as confirmed by the elevated SubG1 phase cell fraction and increased number of cleaved Caspase-3 positive cells 48 h after treatment, with an additive effect when GEM was used after hyperthermia. These were accompanied by reduced number of G1, S, and G2/M phase cells and elevated expression of the cyclin-dependent kinase inhibitor p21 protein. In GEM-resistant Panc1 cells, an initial apoptosis was detected by flow cytometry 24 h after mEHT ± GEM treatment, which however diminished by 48 h at persistent number of cleaved Caspase-3 positive tumor cells. Though GEM monotherapy reduced the number of tumor progenitor colonies in Capan1 cell line, an additive colony inhibitory effect of mEHT was observed after mEHT + GEM treatment. The heat shock induced Hsp27 and Hsp70 proteins, which are known to sensitize PDAC cells to GEM were upregulated in both Capan1 and Panc1 cells 24 h after mEHT treatment. The level of E-Cadherin, a cell adhesion molecule, increased in Capan1 cells after mEHT + GEM treatment. In conclusion, in GEM-sensitive PDAC cells mEHT treatment alone induced cell death and cell cycle inhibition and improved GEM efficiency in combination, which effects were milder and short-term up to 24 h in the GEM-resistant Panc1 cells. Our data further support the inclusion of hyperthermia, in particular of mEHT, into the traditional oncotherapy regimens of PDAC.