Nat Commun. 2021 Mar 9;12(1):1541. doi: 10.1038/s41467-021-21858-1.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by marked desmoplasia and drug resistance due, in part, to poor drug delivery to extravascular tumor tissue. Here, we report that carcinoma-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) induce β5 integrin expression in tumor cells in a TGF-β dependent manner, making them an efficient drug delivery target for the tumor-penetrating peptide iRGD. The capacity of iRGD to deliver conjugated and co-injected payloads is markedly suppressed when β5 integrins are knocked out in the tumor cells. Of note, β5 integrin knock-out in tumor cells leads to reduced disease burden and prolonged survival of the mice, demonstrating its contribution to PDAC progression. iRGD significantly potentiates co-injected chemotherapy in KPC mice with high β5 integrin expression and may be a powerful strategy to target an aggressive PDAC subpopulation.