Overcoming Gemcitabine Resistance in Pancreatic Cancer Using the BCL-XL–Specific Degrader DT2216

Dinesh Thummuri, Sajid Khan, Patrick W. Underwood, Peiyi Zhang, Janet Wiegand, Xuan Zhang, Vivekananda Budamagunta, Amin Sobh, Abderrahmane Tagmount, Alexander Loguinov, Andrea N. Riner, Ashwin S. Akki, Elizabeth Williamson, Robert Hromas, Christopher D. Vulpe, Guangrong Zheng, Jose G. Trevino, Daohong Zhou

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

29 Scopus citations


Pancreatic cancer is the third most common cause of cancer-related deaths in the United States. Although gemcitabine is the standard of care for most patients with pancreatic cancer, its efficacy is limited by the development of resistance. This resistance may be attributable to the evasion of apoptosis caused by the overexpression of BCL-2 family antiapoptotic proteins. In this study, we investigated the role of BCL-XL in gemcitabine resistance to identify a combination therapy to more effectively treat pancreatic cancer. We used CRISPR-Cas9 screening to identify the key genes involved in gemcitabine resistance in pancreatic cancer. Pancreatic cancer cell dependencies on different BCL-2 family proteins and the efficacy of the combination of gemcitabine and DT2216 (a BCL-XL proteolysis targeting chimera or PROTAC) were determined by MTS, Annexin-V/PI, colony formation, and 3D tumor spheroid assays. The therapeutic efficacy of the combination was investigated in several patient-derived xenograft (PDX) mouse models of pancreatic cancer. We identified BCL-XL as a key mediator of gemcitabine resistance. The combination of gemcitabine and DT2216 synergistically induced cell death in multiple pancreatic cancer cell lines in vitro. In vivo, the combination significantly inhibited tumor growth and prolonged the survival of tumor-bearing mice compared with the individual agents in pancreatic cancer PDX models. Their synergistic antitumor activity is attributable to DT2216-induced degradation of BCL-XL and concomitant suppression of MCL-1 by gemcitabine. Our results suggest that DT2216-mediated BCL-XL degradation augments the antitumor activity of gemcitabine and their combination could be more effective for pancreatic cancer treatment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)184-192
Number of pages9
JournalMolecular cancer therapeutics
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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