Ampullary cancer is a rare periampullary cancer currently with no targeted therapeutic agent. It is important to develop a deeper understanding of the carcinogenesis of ampullary cancer. We attempted to explore the characteristics of ampullary cancer in our dataset and a public database, followed by a search for potential drugs. We used a bioinformatics pipeline to analyze complementary (c)DNA microarray data of ampullary cancer and surrounding normal duodenal tissues from five patients. A public database from the National Center for Biotechnology Information Gene Expression Omnibus (NCBI GEO) was applied for external validation. Bioinformatics tools used included the Gene Set Enrichment Analysis (GSEA), Database for Annotation, Visualization and Integrated Discovery (DAVID), MetaCore, Kyoto Encyclopedia of Genes and Genomes (KEGG), Hallmark, BioCarta, Reactome, and Connectivity Map (CMap). In total, 9097 genes were upregulated in the five ampullary cancer samples compared to normal duodenal tissues. From the MetaCore analysis, genes of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor alpha (PPARA) and retinoid X receptor (RXR)-regulated lipid metabolism were overexpressed in ampullary cancer tissues. Further a GSEA of the KEGG, Hallmark, Reactome, and Gene Ontology databases revealed that PPARA and lipid metabolism-related genes were enriched in our specimens of ampullary cancer and in the NCBI GSE39409 database. Expressions of PPARA messenger (m)RNA and the PPAR-α protein were higher in clinical samples and cell lines of ampullary cancer. US Food and Drug Administration (FDA)-approved drugs, including alvespimycin, trichostatin A (a histone deacetylase inhibitor), and cytochalasin B, may have novel therapeutic effects in ampullary cancer patients as predicted by the CMap analysis. Trichostatin A was the most potent agent for ampullary cancer with a half maximal inhibitory concentration of < 0.3 µM. According to our results, upregulation of PPARA and lipid metabolism-related genes are potential pathways in the carcinogenesis and development of ampullary cancer. Results from the CMap analysis suggested potential drugs for patients with ampullary cancer.
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