DR5-targeted, chemotherapeutic drug-loaded nanoparticles induce apoptosis and tumor regression in pancreatic cancer in vivo models

Michael Johnston, Julie Nicoll, Kelly Redmond, Peter Smyth, Michelle Greene, William McDaid, Nyree Crawford, Katie Stott, Jennifer Fox, Daniel Longley*, Christopher Scott*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)
119 Downloads (Pure)


Pancreatic cancer is usually advanced and drug resistant at diagnosis. A potential therapeutic approach outlined here uses nanoparticle (NP)-based drug carriers, which have unique properties that enhance intra-tumor drug exposure and reduce systemic toxicity of encapsulated drugs. Here we report that patients whose pancreatic cancers express elevated levels of Death Receptor 5 (DR5) and its downstream regulators/effectors FLIP, Caspase-8, and FADD had particularly poor prognoses. To take advantage of elevated expression of this pathway, we designed drug-loaded NPs with a surface-conjugated αDR5 antibody (AMG 655). Binding and clustering of the DR5 is a prerequisite for efficient apoptosis initiation, and the αDR5-NPs were indeed found to activate apoptosis in multiple pancreatic cancer models, whereas the free antibody did not. The extent of apoptosis induced by αDR5-NPs was enhanced by down-regulating FLIP, a key modulator of death receptor- mediated activation of caspase-8. Moreover, the DNA topoisomerase-1 inhibitor camptothecin (CPT) down-regulated FLIP in pancreatic cancer models and enhanced apoptosis induced by αDR5-NPs. CPT-loaded αDR5-NPs significantly increased apoptosis and decreased cell viability in vitro in a caspase-8- and FADD-dependent manner consistent with their expected mechanism-of-action. Importantly, CPT-loaded αDR5-NPs markedly reduced tumor growth rates in vivo in established pan- creatic tumor models, inducing regressions in one model. These proof-of-concept studies indicate that αDR5-NPs loaded with agents that downregulate or inhibit FLIP are promising candidate agents for the treatment of pancreatic cancer.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)610-619
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Controlled Release
Early online date03 Jun 2020
Publication statusPublished - 10 Aug 2020


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