Hypoxia Increases Resistance of Human Pancreatic Cancer Cells to Apoptosis Induced by Gemcitabine

Kenji Yokoi, Isaiah J. Fidler

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

162 Scopus citations


Purpose: Hypoxia, frequently found in the center of solid tumor, is associated with resistance to chemotherapy by activation of signaling pathways that regulate cell proliferation, angiogenesis, and apoptosis. We determined whether hypoxia can increase the resistance of human pancreatic carcinoma cells to gemcitabine-induced apoptosis by activation of phosphatidylinositol 3′-kinase (PI3K)/Akt, MEK/mitogen-activated protein kinase (extracellular signal-regulated kinase) [MAPK(Erk) kinase (MEK)], and nuclear factor κB (NF-κB) signaling pathways. Experimental Design: We evaluated the phosphorylation of Akt and MAPK(Erk), DNA binding activity of NF-κB, and apoptosis induced by gemcitabine in L3.6pl human pancreatic cancer cells under normoxic and hypoxic conditions. We then examined the effects of the PI3K inhibitor LY294002, MEK inhibitor U0126, and the epidermal growth factor receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitor PKI 166 on these signaling pathways and induction of apoptosis. Results: Hypoxic conditions increased phosphorylation of Akt and MAPK(Erk) and NF-κB DNA binding activity in L3.6pl cells. The activation of Akt and NF-κB was prevented by LY294002, whereas the activity of MAPK(Erk), but not NF-κB, was inhibited by U0126. The increased activation of Akt, NF-κB, and MAPK(Erk) was inhibited by PKI 166. Under hypoxic conditions, L3.6pl cells were resistant to apoptosis induced by gemcitabine. The addition of LY294002 or PKI 166 abrogated cell resistance to gemcitabine, whereas U0126 only partially decreased this resistance. Conclusions: These data demonstrate that hypoxia can induce resistance of pancreatic cancer cells to gemcitabine mainly through the PI3K/Akt/NF-κB pathways and partially through the MAPK(Erk) signaling pathway. Because PKI 166 prevented the activation of PI3K/Akt/NF-κB and MAPK(Erk) pathways, the combination of this tyrosine kinase inhibitor with gemcitabine should be an effective therapy for pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2299-2306
Number of pages8
JournalClinical Cancer Research
Issue number7
StatePublished - Apr 1 2004

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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