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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Inhibition of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) in advanced pancreatic cancer: results of two phase II studies

Milind M Javle1*, Rachna T Shroff1, Henry Xiong2, Gauri A Varadhachary1, David Fogelman1, Shrikanth A Reddy1, Darren Davis3, Yujian Zhang3, Robert A Wolff1 and James L Abbruzzese1

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Gastrointestinal Medical Oncology, UT-M D Anderson Cancer Center, Houston, TX, USA

2 Center for Cancer and Blood Disorders, Dallas, TX, USA

3 Apocell Inc, 2575 West Bellfort, Suite 190, Houston, TX, USA

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BMC Cancer 2010, 10:368  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-10-368

Published: 14 July 2010

Abstract

Background

The phosphoinositide 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt pathway is constitutively activated in pancreatic cancer and the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) kinase is an important mediator for its signaling. Our recent in vitro studies suggest that prolonged exposure of pancreatic cancer cells to mTOR inhibitors can promote insulin receptor substrate-PI3K interactions and paradoxically increase Akt phosphorylation and cyclin D1 expression in pancreatic cancer cells (negative feedback loop). The addition of erlotinib to rapamycin can down-regulate rapamycin-stimulated Akt and results in synergistic antitumor activity with erlotinib in preclinical tumor models.

Methods

Two studies prospectively enrolled adult patients with advanced pancreatic cancer, Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group performance status 0-1, adequate hematologic, hepatic and renal parameters and measurable disease. In Study A, temsirolimus was administered intravenously at 25 mg weekly. In Study B, everolimus was administered orally at 30 mg weekly and erlotinib was administered at 150 mg daily. The primary endpoint in both studies was overall survival at 6 months. Secondary endpoints included time to progression, progression-free survival, overall survival, response rate, safety and toxicity. Pretreatment tumor biopsies were analyzed by immunofluorescence and laser scanning cytometry for the expression of pmTOR/mTOR, pAkt/Akt, pErk/Erk, pS6, p4EBP-1 and PTEN.

Results

Five patients enrolled in Study A; Two patients died within a month (rapid disease progression and hemorrhagic stroke, respectively). One patient developed dehydration and another developed asthenia. Sixteen patients enrolled in Study B.: 12 males, all ECOG PS = 1. Median cycles = 1 (range 1-2). Grade 4 toxicity: hyponatremia (n = 1), Grade 3: diarrhea (n = 1), cholangitis (n = 3), hyperglycemia (n = 1), fatigue (n = 1). Grade 2: pneumonia (n = 2), dehydration (n = 2), nausea (n = 2), neutropenia (n = 1), mucositis (n = 2) & rash (n = 2). Four patients were hospitalized. Progressive disease occurred in 15 and 1 was non-evaluable. Pretreatment biopsies revealed a higher pAkt/Akt ratio in tumor specimens that in nonmalignant pancreatic tissue. No such trends were noted for the other biomarkers.

Conclusions

Neither study with mTOR inhibitors demonstrated objective responses or disease stability. The negative feedback loop resulting from mTOR inhibition may account for the disease progression and toxicity noted in these studies. Future strategies should aim for a broader targeting of the PI3K pathway in pancreatic cancer.

Trial Registration

Trial registration: Study A: NCT 0075647. Study B: NCT00640978