Research Papers:

STAT3 down regulates LC3 to inhibit autophagy and pancreatic cancer cell growth

Jingjing Gong, Amanda R. Muñoz, Daniel Chan, Rita Ghosh and Addanki P. Kumar _

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Oncotarget. 2014; 5:2529-2541. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1810

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Jingjing Gong1, Amanda R. Muñoz1, Daniel Chan2, Rita Ghosh1,3, and Addanki P. Kumar1,3,4

1 Department of Urology, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX

2 Division of Medical Oncology, University of Colorado, Aurora, CO

3 Cancer Therapy and Research Center, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX

4 South Texas Veterans Health Care System, The University of Texas Health Science Center, San Antonio, TX


Addanki P. Kumar, email:

Keywords: Pancreatic cancer; Nexrutine®; STAT3, inflammation, autophagy, LC3

Received: January 2, 2014 Accepted: March 14, 2014 Published: March 15, 2014


The dismal 5-year survival (<5%) for pancreatic cancer (PanCA) underscores the need for developing effective therapeutic options. Recent studies from our laboratory have shown that Nexrutine® (Nx), a bark extract from Phellodendron amurense exhibits excellent anticancer activity in human pancreatic cancer cells through inhibition of inflammatory signaling via STAT3/NFκB/Cox-2. Given the apparent high oxidative stress and autophagic activity in pancreatic tumors, we investigated the potential of Nx to modulate autophagy, reactive oxygen species (ROS), and their crosstalk. Our results show that Nx inhibits autophagy and decreases ROS generation. Pharmacological inhibition of autophagy led to decreased ROS generation and proliferation with no significant effect on apoptosis. Further, using combination index analysis we also found that combination of late-stage autophagy inhibitor with Nx exhibited a moderate synergistic to additive effect. Additionally, genetic or pharmacological inactivation of STAT3 reduced LC3-II levels and expression indicating a possible role for STAT3 in transcriptional regulation of autophagy. Since both inflammatory and oxidative stress signaling activate STAT3, our data implicates that STAT3 plays a vital role in the regulation of autophagy through its contributions to the positive feedback loop between ROS and autophagy. Overall, our findings reveal an important role for STAT3/LC3/ROS in Nx-mediated anti-pancreatic cancer effects.

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