Although pancreatic neuroendocrine neoplasms (PanNENs) are generally indolent, patients with distant metastasis have a dismal prognosis. Recently, the autophagy inhibitor chloroquine (CQ) has been shown to suppress the tumour growth of PanNENs, but the detailed mechanisms have not been elucidated. Furthermore, these results were obtained from poorly differentiated cell lines rather than well-differentiated cell lines, which is the most prevalent type in this tumour. To explore the mechanism and efficacy of CQ on PanNENs, we applied CQ to cell lines and evaluated the resulting apoptosis and endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress. CQ treatment induced ER stress, and an unfolded protein response was activated through the PERK-eIF2α-ATF4 pathway, resulting in the expression of the pro-apoptotic protein C/EBP homologous protein (CHOP), which reflects ER-stress-mediated apoptotic cell death. Furthermore, hydroxychloroquine (HCQ) was effective in Men1 heterozygous-deficient (Men1+/ΔN3-8) mice, a mouse PanNEN model that is considered to correspond to human low-grade PanNEN. HCQ administration decreased tumour size in Men1+/ΔN3-8 mice. In the HCQ group, histological analyses revealed that proliferative activity was unchanged, but apoptosis was accelerated, accompanied by CHOP expression. These results suggest that autophagy inhibition by CQ/HCQ could be used for the treatment of PanNEN, including the well-differentiated type.
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