Antiplatelet drug ticagrelor enhances chemotherapeutic efficacy by targeting the novel P2Y12-AKT pathway in pancreatic cancer cells

Omar Elaskalani, Alice Domenchini, Norbaini Binti Abdol Razak, Danielle E. Dye, Marco Falasca, Pat Metharom

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24 Citations (Scopus)


Background: Extensive research has reported that extracellular ADP in the tumour microenvironment can stimulate platelets through interaction with the platelet receptor P2Y12. In turn, activated platelets release biological factors supporting cancer progression. Experimental data suggest that the tumour microenvironment components, of which platelets are integral, can promote chemotherapy resistance in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Thus, overcoming chemoresistance requires combining multiple inhibitors that simultaneously target intrinsic pathways in cancer cells and extrinsic factors related to the tumour microenvironment. We aimed to determine whether ticagrelor, an inhibitor of the ADP–P2Y12 axis and a well-known antiplatelet drug, could be a therapeutic option for PDAC. Methods: We investigated a functional P2Y12 receptor and its downstream signalling in a panel of PDAC cell lines and non-cancer pancreatic cells termed hTERT-HPNE. We tested the synergistic effect of ticagrelor, a P2Y12 inhibitor, in combination with chemotherapeutic drugs (gemcitabine, paclitaxel and cisplatin), in vitro and in vivo. Results: Knockdown studies revealed that P2Y12 contributed to epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation and the expression of SLUG and ZEB1, which are transcriptional factors implicated in metastasis and chemoresistance. Studies using genetic and pharmacological inhibitors showed that the P2Y12–EGFR crosstalk enhanced cancer cell proliferation. Inhibition of P2Y12 signalling significantly reduced EGF-dependent AKT activation and promoted the anticancer activity of anti-EGFR treatment. Importantly, ticagrelor significantly decreased the proliferative capacity of cancer but not normal pancreatic cells. In vitro, synergism was observed when ticagrelor was combined with several chemodrugs. In vivo, a combination of ticagrelor with gemcitabine significantly reduced tumour growth, whereas gemcitabine or ticagrelor alone had a minimal effect. Conclusions: These findings uncover a novel effect and mechanism of action of the antiplatelet drug ticagrelor in PDAC cells and suggest a multi-functional role for ADP-P2Y12 signalling in the tumour microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish
Article number250
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Jan 2020
Externally publishedYes

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