Inhibition of pyrimidine synthesis augments Gemcitabine induced growth inhibition in an immunocompetent model of pancreatic cancer.
Leflunomide (Lef) is an agent used in autoimmune disorders that interferes with DNA synthesis. pyrimidine synthesis is a mechanism of Gemcitabine (Gem) resistance in pancreatic cancer. This study aims to assess the efficacy and changes in the tumor microenvironment of Lef monotherapy and in combination with Gem, in a syngeneic mouse model of pancreatic cancer. MTS proliferation assays were conducted to assess growth inhibition by Gem (0-20 nM), Lef (0-40 uM) and Gem+Lef in KPC (KrasLSL.G12D/+;p53R172H/+; PdxCretg/+) cells . An heterotopic KPC model was used and cohorts were treated with: PBS (control), Gem (75 mg/kg/q3d), Lef (40 mg/kg/d), or Gem+Lef. At d28 post-treatment, tumor burden, proliferation index (Ki67), and vascularity (CD31) were measured. Changes in the frequency of peripheral and intratumoral immune cell subsets were evaluated via FACS. Liquid chromatography-mass spectrometry was used for metabolomics profiling. Lef inhibits KPC cell growth and synergizes with Gem (P<0.05; Combination Index 0.44 (<1 indicates synergy). , Lef alone and in combination with Gem delays KPC tumor progression (P<0.001). CTLA-4+T cells are also significantly decreased in tumors treated with Lef, Gem or in combination (Gem+Lef) compared to controls (P<0.05). Combination therapy also decreased the Ki67 and vascularity (P<0.01). Leflunomide inhibits pyrimidine synthesis both (p<0.0001) and (p<0.05). In this study, we demonstrated that Gem+Lef inhibits pancreatic cancer growth, decrease T cell exhaustion, vascularity and as proof of principle inhibits pyrimidine synthesis. Further characterization of changes in adaptive immunity are necessary to characterize the mechanism of tumor growth inhibition and facilitate translation to a clinical trial.