Pancreatic cancer is a complex disease, in need of new therapeutic approaches. In this study, we explored the effect and mechanism of action of epigallocatechin-3-gallate (EGCG), a major polyphenol in green tea, alone and in combination with current chemotherapeutics on pancreatic cancer cell growth, focusing on glycolysis metabolism. Moreover, we investigated whether EGCG’s effect is dependent on its ability to induce reactive oxygen species (ROS). EGCG reduced pancreatic cancer cell growth in a concentration-dependent manner and the growth inhibition effect was further enhanced under glucose deprivation conditions. Mechanistically, EGCG induced ROS levels concentration-dependently. EGCG affected glycolysis by suppressing the extracellular acidification rate through the reduction of the activity and levels of the glycolytic enzymes phosphofructokinase and pyruvate kinase. Cotreatment with catalase abrogated EGCG’s effect on phosphofructokinase and pyruvate kinase. Furthermore, EGCG sensitized gemcitabine to inhibit pancreatic cancer cell growth in vitro and in vivo. EGCG and gemcitabine, given alone, reduced pancreatic tumor xenograft growth by 40% and 52%, respectively, whereas the EGCG/gemcitabine combination reduced tumor growth by 67%. EGCG enhanced gemcitabine’s effect on apoptosis, cell proliferation, cell cycle and further suppressed phosphofructokinase and pyruvate kinase levels. In conclusion, EGCG is a strong combination partner of gemcitabine reducing pancreatic cancer cell growth by suppressing glycolysis.
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