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Pancreatic cancer (PC) is one of the leading causes of cancer related deaths due to aggressive progression and metastatic spread. Aspartate β-hydroxylase (ASPH), a cell surface protein that catalyzes the hydroxylation of epidermal growth factor (EGF)-like repeats in Notch receptors and ligands, is highly overexpressed in PC. ASPH upregulation confers a malignant phenotype characterized by enhanced cell proliferation, migration, invasion and colony formation in vitro as well as PC tumor growth in vivo. The transforming properties of ASPH depend on enzymatic activity. ASPH links PC growth factor signaling cascades to Notch activation. A small molecule inhibitor of β-hydroxylase activity was developed and found to reduce PC growth by downregulating the Notch signaling pathway. These findings demonstrate the critical involvement of ASPH in PC growth and progression, provide new insight into the molecular mechanisms leading to tumor development and growth and have important therapeutic implications.

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