Carboxylesterase 2 as a Determinant of Response to Irinotecan and Neoadjuvant FOLFIRINOX Therapy in Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma.

Publication Type:

Journal Article


Journal of the National Cancer Institute, Volume 107, Issue 8 (2015)


Adult, Aged, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Camptothecin, Carboxylesterase, Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal, Cell Line, Tumor, Chemotherapy, Adjuvant, Female, Fluorouracil, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Kaplan-Meier Estimate, Male, mass spectrometry, Middle Aged, Neoadjuvant Therapy, Organoplatinum Compounds, Pancreatic Neoplasms, Radiotherapy, Adjuvant, Real-Time Polymerase Chain Reaction, Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction, RNA, Messenger, Sequence Analysis, RNA, Tissue Array Analysis, Treatment Outcome, Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


BACKGROUND: Serine hydrolases (SHs) are among the largest classes of enzymes in humans and play crucial role in many pathophysiological processes of cancer. We have undertaken a comprehensive proteomic analysis to assess the differential expression and cellular localization of SHs, which uncovered distinctive expression of Carboxylesterase 2 (CES2), the most efficient carboxyl esterase in activating the prodrug irinotecan into SN-38, in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). We therefore assessed the extent of heterogeneity in CES2 expression in PDAC and its potential relevance to irinotecan based therapy.

METHODS: CES2 expression in PDAC and paired nontumor tissues was evaluated by immunohistochemistry. CES2 activity was assessed by monitoring the hydrolysis of the substrate p-NPA and correlated with irinotecan IC50 values by means of Pearson's correlation. Kaplan-Meier and Cox regression analyses were applied to assess the association between overall survival and CES2 expression in patients who underwent neoadjuvant FOLFIRINOX treatment. All statistical tests were two-sided.

RESULTS: Statistically significant overexpression of CES2, both at the mRNA and protein levels, was observed in PDAC compared with paired nontumor tissue (P < .001), with 48 of 118 (40.7%) tumors exhibiting high CES2 expression. CES2 activity in 11 PDAC cell lines was inversely correlated with irinotecan IC50 values (R = -0.68, P = .02). High CES2 expression in tumor tissue was associated with longer overall survival in resectable and borderline resectable patients who underwent neoadjuvant FOLFIRINOX treatment (hazard ratio = 0.14, 95% confidence interval = 0.04 to 0.51, P = .02).

CONCLUSION: Our findings suggest that CES2 expression and activity, by mediating the intratumoral activation of irinotecan, is a contributor to FOLFIRINOX sensitivity in pancreatic cancer and CES2 assessment may define a subset of patients likely to respond to irinotecan based therapy.