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Open Access Research article

TLN-4601 suppresses growth and induces apoptosis of pancreatic carcinoma cells through inhibition of Ras-ERK MAPK signaling

Paul M Campbell1, Nadia Boufaied2, James J Fiordalisi3, Adrienne D Cox13, Pierre Falardeau2, Channing J Der1* and Henriette Gourdeau2*

Author Affiliations

1 Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Pharmacology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill NC 27599-7295, USA

2 Thallion PharmaceuticalsInc., 7150 Alexander-Fleming, Montreal QC, H4S 2C8 Canada

3 Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center and Department of Radiation Oncology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill NC 27599-7295, USA

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Journal of Molecular Signaling 2010, 5:18  doi:10.1186/1750-2187-5-18

Published: 2 November 2010



TLN-4601 is a structurally novel farnesylated dibenzodiazepinone discovered using Thallion's proprietary DECIPHER® technology, a genomics and bioinformatics platform that predicts the chemical structures of secondary metabolites based on gene sequences obtained by scanning bacterial genomes. Our recent studies suggest that TLN-4601 inhibits the Ras-ERK MAPK pathway post Ras prenylation and prior to MEK activation. The Ras-ERK MAPK signaling pathway is a well-validated oncogenic cascade based on its central role in regulating the growth and survival of cells from a broad spectrum of human tumors. Furthermore, RAS isoforms are the most frequently mutated oncogenes, occurring in approximately 30% of all human cancers, and KRAS is the most commonly mutated RAS gene, with a greater than 90% incidence of mutation in pancreatic cancer.


To evaluate whether TLN-4601 interferes with K-Ras signaling, we utilized human pancreatic epithelial cells and demonstrate that TLN-4601 treatment resulted in a dose- and time-dependent inhibition of Ras-ERK MAPK signaling. The compound also reduced Ras-GTP levels and induced apoptosis. Finally, treatment of MIA PaCa-2 tumor-bearing mice with TLN-4601 resulted in antitumor activity and decreased tumor Raf-1 protein levels.


These data, together with phase I/II clinical data showing tolerability of TLN-4601, support conducting a clinical trial in advanced pancreatic cancer patients.