Cancer stem cells (CSCs) subpopulation within the tumour is responsible for metastasis and cancer relapse. Here we investigate in vitro and in vivo the effects of a pancreatic (pro)enzyme mixture composed of Chymotrypsinogen and Trypsinogen (PRP) on CSCs derived from a human pancreatic cell line, BxPC3. Exposure of pancreatic CSCs spheres to PRP resulted in a significant decrease of ALDEFLUOR and specific pancreatic CSC markers (CD 326, CD 44 and CxCR4) signal tested by flow cytometry, further CSCs markers expression was also analyzed by western and immunofluorescence assays. PRP also inhibits primary and secondary sphere formation. Three RT2 Profiler PCR Arrays were used to study gene expression regulation after PRP treatment and resulted in, (i) epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) inhibition; (ii) CSCs related genes suppression; (iii) enhanced expression of tumour suppressor genes; (iv) downregulation of migration and metastasis genes and (v) regulation of MAP Kinase Signalling Pathway. Finally, in vivo anti-tumor xenograft studies demonstrated high anti-tumour efficacy of PRP against tumours induced by BxPC3 human pancreatic CSCs. PRP impaired engrafting of pancreatic CSC’s tumours in nude mice and displayed an antigrowth effect toward initiated xenografts. We concluded that (pro)enzymes treatment is a valuable strategy to suppress the CSC population in solid pancreatic tumours.
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