The growth inhibitory effect of gambogic acid on pancreatic cancer cells

  • Mаhmoud Youns
  • Abeer ElKhoely
  • Rehab Kamel
Original Article


Pancreatic cancer, the fourth most common cause of cancer-related deaths, is one of the most aggressive and devastating human malignancies with increasing incidence worldwide. To date, surgical resection is the only potentially curative therapy available for pancreatic cancer patients. Early diagnosis of pancreatic tumors is difficult, and hence, nearly 80% of patients cannot receive surgical resection. Natural products have always been a vital source for novel compounds for cancer treatment. The naturally occurring prenylated xanthone, gambogic acid, has been previously shown to exert potent anticancer, anti-inflammatory, apoptotic, antiangiogenic, and antioxidant activities. However, to our knowledge, there have been no specific studies showing its effect on the whole-genome expression in pancreatic cancer cells. Here, the anticancer activity of gambogic acid toward a panel of pancreatic cancer cells with different differentiation stages has been evaluated. Additionally, a whole-genome transcription profiling study was performed in order to identify possible candidate players modulating the antitumor effect of gambogic acid on pancreatic cancer cells. Expression analysis results showed that the pancreatic adenocarcinoma signaling pathway was specifically affected upon gambogic acid treatment. Moreover, the growth inhibitory effect of gambogic acid on pancreatic cancer cells was modulated through up-regulation of DDIT3, DUSP1, and DUSP5 and down-regulation of ALDOA, TOP2A, and ATG4B. The present work is a starting point for the generation of hypotheses on significantly regulated candidate key player genes and for a detailed dissection of the potential role of each individual gene for the activity of gambogic acid on pancreatic cancer.


Gambogic acid Pancreatic cancer ALDOA Topoisomerase 2A Microarray expression 



The authors appreciate the efforts and would like to thank Dr. Jörg D. Hoheisel, head of functional genome analysis department, German Cancer Research Center (DKFZ), Heidelberg, Germany, for his unlimited support, ideas, and generous help during the whole work.

Compliance with ethical standards

Conflict of interest

The authors declare that they have no conflicts of interest.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag GmbH Germany, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Functional Genome analysisGerman Cancer Research Center (DKFZ)69120 HeidelbergGermany
  2. 2.Oman Pharmacy InstituteMuscatSultanate of Oman
  3. 3.Department of Biochemistry and Molecular BiologyFaculty of Pharmacy, Helwan UniversityCairoEgypt
  4. 4.Department of Pharmacology and Toxicology, Faculty of PharmacyHelwan UniversityCairoEgypt

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