Mitogen-activated protein kinase inhibition reduces mucin 2 production and mucinous tumor growth

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Excessive accumulation of mucin 2 (MUC2) protein (a gel-forming secreted mucin) within the peritoneal cavity is the major cause of morbidity and mortality in pseudomyxoma peritonei (PMP), a unique mucinous malignancy of the appendix. Mitogen-activated protein kinase (MAPK) signaling pathway is upregulated in PMP and has been shown to modulate MUC2 promoter activity. We hypothesized that targeted inhibition of the MAPK pathway would be a novel, effective, and safe therapeutic strategy to reduce MUC2 production and mucinous tumor growth. We tested RDEA119, a specific MEK1/2 (MAPK extracellular signal-regulated kinase [ERK] kinase) inhibitor, in MUC2-secreting LS174T cells, human PMP explant tissue, and in a unique intraperitoneal murine xenograft model of PMP. RDEA119 reduced ERK1/2 phosphorylation and inhibited MUC2 messenger RNA and protein expression in vitro. In the xenograft model, chronic oral therapy with RDEA119 inhibited mucinous tumor growth in an MAPK pathway–dependent manner and this translated into a significant improvement in survival. RDEA119 downregulated phosphorylated ERK1/2 and nuclear factor κB p65 protein signaling and reduced activating protein 1 (AP1) transcription factor binding to the MUC2 promoter in LS174T cells. This study provides a preclinical rationale for the use of MEK inhibitors to treat patients with PMP.

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