ARTICLE: Matrix stiffness induces Epithelial-Mesenchymal transition and promotes chemoresistance in pancreatic stellate cells

Our latest paper, published in Oncogenesis. 

Increased matrix rigidity associated with the fibrotic reaction is documented to stimulate intracellular signalling pathways that promote cancer cell survival and tumour growth. Pancreatic cancer is one of the stiffest of all human solid carcinomas and is characterised by a remarkable desmoplastic reaction. Here, we use mouse models genetically engineered to recapitulate human pancreatic cancer, and several pancreatic cancer cell lines as a model, to investigate the effect of matrix stiffness in epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and resistance to chemotherapeutics. We found that recapitulation of the fibrotic rigidities found in pancreatic cancer tissues promote elements of EMT including increases in vimentin expression, decreases in E-cadherin expression, nuclear localisation of β-catenin, YAP, and TAZ, and changes in cell shape towards a mesenchymal phenotype. We also report that stiffness induces chemoresistance to paclitaxel, but not to gemcitabine, both commonly used therapeutics, suggesting that environmental rigidity underlies an aspect of chemoresistance.