Conophylline suppresses pancreatic cancer desmoplasia and cancer-promoting cytokines produced by cancer-associated fibroblasts

Norihiro Ishii, Kenichiro Araki, Takehiko Yokobori, Kei Hagiwara, Dorgormaa Gantumur, Takahiro Yamanaka, Tadashi Handa, Mariko Tsukagoshi, Takamichi Igarashi, Akira Watanabe, Norio Kubo, Norifumi Harimoto, Atsushi Masamune, Kazuo Umezawa, Hiroyuki Kuwano, Ken Shirabe

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29 Citations (Scopus)


Despite recent advances in cancer treatment, pancreatic cancer is a highly malignant tumor type with a dismal prognosis and it is characterized by dense desmoplasia in the cancer tissue. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAF) are responsible for this fibrotic stroma and promote cancer progression. We previously reported that a novel natural compound conophylline (CnP) extracted from the leaves of a tropical plant reduced liver and pancreatic fibrosis by suppression of stellate cells. However, there have been no studies to investigate the effects of CnP on CAF, which is the aim of this work. Here, we showed that CAF stimulated indicators of pancreatic cancer malignancy, such as proliferation, invasiveness, and chemoresistance. We also showed that CnP suppressed CAF activity and proliferation, and inhibited the stimulating effects of CAF on pancreatic cancer cells. Moreover, CnP strongly decreased the various cytokines involved in cancer progression, such as interleukin (IL)-6, IL-8, C-C motif chemokine ligand 2 (CCL2), and C-X-C motif chemokine ligand 12 (CXCL12), secreted by CAF. In vivo, CAF promoted tumor proliferation and desmoplastic formation in a mouse xenograft model, CnP reduced desmoplasia of tumors composed of pancreatic cancer cells + CAF, and combination therapy of CnP with gemcitabine remarkably inhibited tumor proliferation. Our findings suggest that CnP is a promising therapeutic strategy of combination therapy with anticancer drugs to overcome refractory pancreatic cancers.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)334-344
Number of pages11
JournalCancer Science
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019 Jan


  • conophylline
  • cytokine
  • fibroblast
  • microenvironment
  • stellate cell


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