N-arylpiperazine-containing compound (C2): An enhancer of sunitinib in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, involving D1DR activation

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Previous studies showed that dopamine (DA) significantly reduces the frequency of cancer stem-like cells (CSC) and enhances the efficacy of sunitinib (SUN) in the treatment of breast cancer and non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). To overcome the shortcomings of DA in clinical practice, the purpose of this study was to investigate the efficacy as well as the underlying mechanism of an orally available, N-arylpiperazine-containing compound C2, in the treatment of pancreatic cancer when used alone or in combination with SUN. Our results showed that C2 and SUN exerted synergistic effects on inhibiting the growth of SW1990 and PANC-1 pancreatic cancer cells. C2 significantly inhibited colony formation and migration of both cells. SW1990 xenograft and patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models were utilized for pharmacodynamic investigation in vivo. C2 alone showed little inhibition effect on tumor growth but increased the anti-tumor efficacy of SUN in both xenografts. Moreover, C2 down-regulated CSC markers (CD133 and ALDH) of both cancer cells and up-regulated the expression of dopamine receptor D1 (D1DR) in tumor. Besides, the SW1990 tumor growth was dose-dependently inhibited when the cells were pretreated with C2 before implantation. C2 increased intratumoral cAMP level, and the combination with D1DR specific antagonist SCH23390 reversed the above-mentioned effects of C2 both in vitro and in vivo, indicating the activation of D1DR may be involved in the underlying mechanism of C2 action. In summary, C2 could reduce the CSC frequency and enhance the anti-cancer effect of SUN in the treatment of pancreatic cancer, demonstrating its potential in cancer therapy.

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