New high-throughput screening detects compounds that suppress pancreatic stellate cell activation and attenuate pancreatic cancer growth

Akiko Sagara, Kohei Nakata, Tomohiro Yamashita, Weiyu Guan, Pingshan Zhong, Sokichi Matsumoto, Sho Endo, Chika Iwamoto, Koji Shindo, Naoki Ikenaga, Taiki Moriyama, Kenoki Ohuchida, Kazuhiro Mizumoto, Masafumi Nakamura

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

5 Citations (Scopus)


Background/objectives: Pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) are involved in abundant desmoplasia, which promotes cancer cell aggressiveness and resistance to anti-cancer drugs. Therefore, PSCs are suggested to be a promising therapeutic target by attenuating PSC activation to inhibit tumor-stromal interactions with pancreatic cancer cells. Here, we developed a screen to identify compounds that reduce the activity of PSCs and investigated the effect of candidates on pancreatic cancer. Methods: Lipid droplet accumulation in PSCs was used to observe differences in PSC activity and a new high-throughput screening platform that quantified lipid droplets in PSCs was established. A library of 3398 Food and Drug Administration-approved drugs was screened by this platform. Validation assays were performed in vitro and in vivo. Results: Thirty-two compounds were finally selected as candidate compounds by screening. These compounds decreased α-smooth muscle actin expression and inhibited autophagic flux in PSCs in vitro. Among the candidates, three drugs selected for validation assays inhibited the proliferation and migration of PSCs and invasion of cancer cells by disrupting tumor-stromal interactions. Production of extracellular matrix molecules was also decreased significantly by this treatment. In vivo testing in xenograft models showed that dopamine antagonist zuclopenthixol suppressed tumor growth; this suppression was significantly increased when combined with gemcitabine. Conclusions: A new screening platform that focused on the morphological features of PSCs was developed. Candidate drugs from this screening suppressed PSC activation and tumor growth. This screening system may be useful to discover new compounds that attenuate PSC activation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1071-1080
Number of pages10
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - Sept 2021

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Hepatology
  • Gastroenterology


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