ARTICLE ABSTRACTThis research investigates the association between benzodiazepines (BZD) and cancer patient survival outcomes, the pancreatic cancer tumor microenvironment, and cancer-associated fibroblast (CAF) signaling.
Multivariate Cox regression modeling was used to retrospectively measure associations between Roswell Park cancer patient survival outcomes and BZD prescription records. IHC, H&E, Masson's trichrome, RNAscope, and RNA sequencing were used to evaluate the impact of lorazepam (LOR) on the murine PDAC tumor microenvironment. ELISA and qPCR were used to determine the impact of BZDs on IL6 expression or secretion by human-immortalized pancreatic CAFs. PRESTO-Tango assays, reanalysis of PDAC single-cell sequencing/TCGA data sets, and GPR68 CRISPRi knockdown CAFs were used to determine the impact of BZDs on GPR68 signaling.
LOR is associated with worse progression-free survival (PFS), whereas alprazolam (ALP) is associated with improved PFS, in pancreatic cancer patients receiving chemotherapy. LOR promotes desmoplasia (fibrosis and extracellular matrix protein deposition), inflammatory signaling, and ischemic necrosis. GPR68 is preferentially expressed on human PDAC CAFs, and n-unsubstituted BZDs, such as LOR, significantly increase IL6 expression and secretion in CAFs in a pH and GPR68-dependent manner. Conversely, ALP and other GPR68 n-substituted BZDs decrease IL6 in human CAFs in a pH and GPR68-independent manner. Across many cancer types, LOR is associated with worse survival outcomes relative to ALP and patients not receiving BZDs.
We demonstrate that LOR stimulates fibrosis and inflammatory signaling, promotes desmoplasia and ischemic necrosis, and is associated with decreased pancreatic cancer patient survival.