Downregulation of STAT3/NF-κB potentiates gemcitabine activity in pancreatic cancer cells

Jingjing Gong, Amanda R. Muñoz, Subramanya Pingali, Florastina Payton-Stewart, Daniel E. Chan, James W. Freeman, Rita Ghosh, Addanki P. Kumar

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


There is an unmet need to develop new agents or strategies against therapy resistant pancreatic cancer (PanCA). Recent studies from our laboratory showed that STAT3 negatively regulates NF-κB and that inhibition of this crosstalk using Nexrutine® (Nx) reduces transcriptional activity of COX-2. Inhibition of these molecular interactions impedes pancreatic cancer cell growth as well as reduces fibrosis in a preclinical animal model. Nx is an extract derived from the bark of Phellodendron amurense and has been utilized in traditional Chinese medicine as antidiarrheal, astringent, and anti-inflammatory agent for centuries. We hypothesized that “Nx-mediated inhibition of survival molecules like STAT3 and NF-κB in pancreatic cancer cells will improve the efficacy of the conventional chemotherapeutic agent, gemcitabine (GEM).” Therefore, we explored the utility of Nx, one of its active constituents berberine and its derivatives, to enhance the effects of GEM. Using multiple human pancreatic cancer cells we found that combination treatment with Nx and GEM resulted in significant alterations of proteins in the STAT3/NF-κB signaling axis culminating in growth inhibition in a synergistic manner. Furthermore, GEM resistant cells were more sensitive to Nx treatment than their parental GEM-sensitive cells. Interestingly, although berberine, the Nx active component used, and its derivatives were biologically active in GEM sensitive cells they did not potentiate GEM activity when used in combination. Taken together, these results suggest that the natural extract, Nx, but not its active component, berberine, has the potential to improve GEM sensitivity, perhaps by down regulating STAT3/NF-κB signaling.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)402-411
Number of pages10
JournalMolecular Carcinogenesis
Issue number2
StatePublished - Feb 1 2017


  • STAT3/NFκB
  • chemoresistance
  • gemcitabine
  • nexrutine
  • pancreatic cancer

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Biology
  • Cancer Research


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