Bone marrow-derived proangiogenic cells in pancreatic cancer

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Tumor-derived signals systemically induce an angiogenic switch that allows cancer cells to survive and grow. However, the vascular network in tumors is not well organized and fails to meet metabolic needs to maintain tissue homeostasis, resulting in significant hypoxia. Among various tumors, pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) typically develops in an unusually disordered microenvironment, which contributes to its highly aggressive behavior. Since anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) (Avastin) has failed to demonstrate a survival benefit in PDAC, we need to re-visit the basic biology of this disease and understand what makes it so refractory to the anti-angiogenic approaches that are clinically effective in other neoplasms. To address this issue, we specifically focused on the process of neovascularization where bone marrow-derived cells (BMDCs) play a role during pancreatic tumorigenesis. We have identified subsets of BMDCs that regulate key processes during development of the neovessels through paracrine Hedgehog signaling. Considering the importance of systemic responses occurring in tumor bearing hosts, we are currently using genetically engineered mice, which spontaneously develop PDAC, Pdx1-Cre;LSL-KrasG12D;p53lox/+ strain, to clarify critical events that can trigger aberrant angiogenesis in pancreatic cancer. These studies allow us to provide insights into the cellular and molecular mechanisms of pancreatic tumorigenesis and have an implication for the design of therapies against this difficult disease.

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