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Pancreatic cancer is among the most well-characterized cancer types, yet a large proportion of the heritability of pancreatic cancer risk remains unclear. Here, we performed a large transcriptome-wide association study to systematically investigate associations between genetically predicted gene expression in normal pancreas tissue and pancreatic cancer risk. Using data from 305 subjects of mostly European descent in the Genotype-Tissue Expression Project, we built comprehensive genetic models to predict normal pancreas tissue gene expression, modifying the UTMOST (unified test for molecular signatures). These prediction models were applied to the genetic data of 8,275 pancreatic cancer cases and 6,723 controls of European ancestry. Thirteen genes showed an association of genetically predicted expression with pancreatic cancer risk at an FDR ≤ 0.05, including seven previously reported genes (, and ) and six novel genes not yet reported for pancreatic cancer risk [6q27: OR (95% confidence interval (CI), 1.54 (1.25-1.89); 13q12.13: OR (95% CI), 0.78 (0.70-0.88); 14q24.3: OR (95% CI), 1.35 (1.17-1.56); 17q12: OR (95% CI), 6.49 (2.96-14.27); 17q21.1: OR (95% CI), 1.94 (1.45-2.58); and 20p13: OR (95% CI): 1.41 (1.20-1.66)]. The associations for 10 of these genes (, and ) remained statistically significant even after adjusting for risk SNPs identified in previous genome-wide association study. Collectively, this analysis identified novel candidate susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer that warrant further investigation. SIGNIFICANCE: A transcriptome-wide association analysis identified seven previously reported and six novel candidate susceptibility genes for pancreatic cancer risk.
©2020 American Association for Cancer Research.
BACKGROUND & AIMS - Development of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA) involves acinar to ductal metaplasia and genesis of tuft cells. It has been a challenge to study these rare cells because of the lack of animal models. We investigated the role of tuft cells in pancreatic tumorigenesis.
METHODS - We performed studies with LSL-Kras;Ptf1a mice (KC; develop pancreatic tumors), KC mice crossed with mice with pancreatic disruption of Pou2f3 (KPouC mice; do not develop tuft cells), or mice with pancreatic disruption of the hematopoietic prostaglandin D synthase gene (Hpgds, KHC mice) and wild-type mice. Mice were allowed to age or were given caerulein to induce pancreatitis; pancreata were collected and analyzed by histology, immunohistochemistry, RNA sequencing, ultrastructural microscopy, and metabolic profiling. We performed laser-capture dissection and RNA-sequencing analysis of pancreatic tissues from 26 patients with pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanIN), 19 patients with intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasms (IPMNs), and 197 patients with PDA.
RESULTS - Pancreata from KC mice had increased formation of tuft cells and higher levels of prostaglandin D than wild-type mice. Pancreas-specific deletion of POU2F3 in KC mice (KPouC mice) resulted in a loss of tuft cells and accelerated tumorigenesis. KPouC mice had increased fibrosis and activation of immune cells after administration of caerulein. Pancreata from KPouC and KHC mice had significantly lower levels of prostaglandin D, compared with KC mice, and significantly increased numbers of PanINs and PDAs. KPouC and KHC mice had increased pancreatic injury after administration of caerulein, significantly less normal tissue, more extracellular matrix deposition, and higher PanIN grade than KC mice. Human PanIN and intraductal papillary mucinous neoplasm had gene expression signatures associated with tuft cells and increased expression of Hpgds messenger RNA compared with PDA.
CONCLUSIONS - In mice with KRAS-induced pancreatic tumorigenesis, loss of tuft cells accelerates tumorigenesis and increases the severity of caerulein-induced pancreatic injury, via decreased production of prostaglandin D. These data are consistent with the hypothesis that tuft cells are a metaplasia-induced tumor attenuating cell type.
Copyright © 2020 AGA Institute. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Ferroptosis is a form of cell death that results from the catastrophic accumulation of lipid reactive oxygen species (ROS). Oncogenic signaling elevates lipid ROS production in many tumor types and is counteracted by metabolites that are derived from the amino acid cysteine. In this work, we show that the import of oxidized cysteine (cystine) via system x is a critical dependency of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), which is a leading cause of cancer mortality. PDAC cells used cysteine to synthesize glutathione and coenzyme A, which, together, down-regulated ferroptosis. Studying genetically engineered mice, we found that the deletion of a system x subunit, , induced tumor-selective ferroptosis and inhibited PDAC growth. This was replicated through the administration of cyst(e)inase, a drug that depletes cysteine and cystine, demonstrating a translatable means to induce ferroptosis in PDAC.
Copyright © 2020 The Authors, some rights reserved; exclusive licensee American Association for the Advancement of Science. No claim to original U.S. Government Works.
Lack of durable response to cytotoxic chemotherapy is a major contributor to the dismal outcomes seen in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Extensive tumor desmoplasia and poor vascular supply are two predominant characteristics which hinder the delivery of chemotherapeutic drugs into PDAC tumors and mediate resistance to therapy. Previously, we have shown that STAT3 is a key biomarker of therapeutic resistance to gemcitabine treatment in PDAC, which can be overcome by combined inhibition of the Src and EGFR pathways. Although it is well-established that concurrent EGFR and Src inhibition exert these antineoplastic properties through direct inhibition of mitogenic pathways in tumor cells, the influence of this combined therapy on stromal constituents in PDAC tumors remains unknown. In this study, we demonstrate in both orthotopic tumor xenograft and (PKT) mouse models that concurrent EGFR and Src inhibition abrogates STAT3 activation, increases microvessel density, and prevents tissue fibrosis . Furthermore, the stromal changes induced by parallel EGFR and Src pathway inhibition resulted in improved overall survival in PKT mice when combined with gemcitabine. As a phase I clinical trial utilizing concurrent EGFR and Src inhibition with gemcitabine has recently concluded, these data provide timely translational insight into the novel mechanism of action of this regimen and expand our understanding into the phenomenon of stromal-mediated therapeutic resistance. IMPLICATIONS: These findings demonstrate that Src/EGFR inhibition targets STAT3, remodels the tumor stroma, and results in enhanced delivery of gemcitabine to improve overall survival in a mouse model of PDAC.
©2020 American Association for Cancer Research.
Activating mutations in Kras are nearly ubiquitous in human pancreatic cancer and initiate precancerous pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia (PanINs) when induced in mouse acinar cells. PanINs normally take months to form but are accelerated by deletion of acinar cell differentiation factors such as Ptf1a, suggesting that loss of cell identity is rate limiting for pancreatic tumor initiation. Using a genetic mouse model that allows for independent control of oncogenic Kras and Ptf1a expression, we demonstrate that sustained Ptf1a is sufficient to prevent Kras-driven tumorigenesis, even in the presence of tumor-promoting inflammation. Furthermore, reintroducing Ptf1a into established PanINs reverts them to quiescent acinar cells in vivo. Similarly, Ptf1a re-expression in human pancreatic cancer cells inhibits their growth and colony-forming ability. Our results suggest that reactivation of an endogenous differentiation program can prevent and reverse oncogene-driven transformation in cells harboring tumor-driving mutations, introducing a potential paradigm for solid tumor prevention and treatment.
Copyright © 2019 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
BACKGROUND & AIMS - Activating mutation of the KRAS gene is common in some cancers, such as pancreatic cancer, but rare in other cancers. Chronic pancreatitis is a predisposing condition for pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), but how it synergizes with KRAS mutation is not known.
METHODS - We used a mouse model to express an activating mutation of Kras in conjunction with obstruction of the main pancreatic duct to recapitulate a common etiology of human chronic pancreatitis. Because the cell of origin of PDAC is not clear, Kras mutation was introduced into either duct cells or acinar cells.
RESULTS - Although Kras expression in both cell types was protective against damage-associated cell death, chronic pancreatitis induced p53, p21, and growth arrest only in acinar-derived cells. Mutant duct cells did not elevate p53 or p21 expression and exhibited increased proliferation driving the appearance of PDAC over time.
CONCLUSIONS - One mechanism by which tissues may be susceptible or resistant to KRAS-initiated tumorigenesis is whether they undergo a p53-mediated damage response. In summary, we have uncovered a mechanism by which inflammation and intrinsic cellular programming synergize for the development of PDAC.
Copyright © 2019 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) has a dismal prognosis largely owing to inefficient diagnosis and tenacious drug resistance. Activation of pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) and consequent development of dense stroma are prominent features accounting for this aggressive biology. The reciprocal interplay between PSCs and pancreatic cancer cells (PCCs) not only enhances tumour progression and metastasis but also sustains their own activation, facilitating a vicious cycle to exacerbate tumorigenesis and drug resistance. Furthermore, PSC activation occurs very early during PDAC tumorigenesis, and activated PSCs comprise a substantial fraction of the tumour mass, providing a rich source of readily detectable factors. Therefore, we hypothesized that the communication between PSCs and PCCs could be an exploitable target to develop effective strategies for PDAC therapy and diagnosis. Here, starting with a systematic proteomic investigation of secreted disease mediators and underlying molecular mechanisms, we reveal that leukaemia inhibitory factor (LIF) is a key paracrine factor from activated PSCs acting on cancer cells. Both pharmacologic LIF blockade and genetic Lifr deletion markedly slow tumour progression and augment the efficacy of chemotherapy to prolong survival of PDAC mouse models, mainly by modulating cancer cell differentiation and epithelial-mesenchymal transition status. Moreover, in both mouse models and human PDAC, aberrant production of LIF in the pancreas is restricted to pathological conditions and correlates with PDAC pathogenesis, and changes in the levels of circulating LIF correlate well with tumour response to therapy. Collectively, these findings reveal a function of LIF in PDAC tumorigenesis, and suggest its translational potential as an attractive therapeutic target and circulating marker. Our studies underscore how a better understanding of cell-cell communication within the tumour microenvironment can suggest novel strategies for cancer therapy.
The epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) endows carcinoma cells with traits needed to complete many of the steps leading to metastasis formation, but its contributions specifically to the late step of extravasation remain understudied. We find that breast cancer cells that have undergone an EMT extravasate more efficiently from blood vessels both in vitro and in vivo. Analysis of gene expression changes associated with the EMT program led to the identification of an EMT-induced cell-surface protein, podocalyxin (PODXL), as a key mediator of extravasation in mesenchymal breast and pancreatic carcinoma cells. PODXL promotes extravasation through direct interaction of its intracellular domain with the cytoskeletal linker protein ezrin. Ezrin proceeds to establish dorsal cortical polarity, enabling the transition of cancer cells from a non-polarized, rounded cell morphology to an invasive extravasation-competent shape. Hence, the EMT program can directly enhance the efficiency of extravasation and subsequent metastasis formation through a PODXL-ezrin signaling axis.
Copyright © 2018 The Authors. Published by Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
Chromatin remodeler Brahma related gene 1 (BRG1) is silenced in approximately 10% of human pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas (PDAs). We previously showed that BRG1 inhibits the formation of intraductal pancreatic mucinous neoplasm (IPMN) and that IPMN-derived PDA originated from ductal cells. However, the role of BRG1 in pancreatic intraepithelial neoplasia-derived (PanIN-derived) PDA that originated from acinar cells remains elusive. Here, we found that exclusive elimination of Brg1 in acinar cells of Ptf1a-CreER; KrasG12D; Brg1fl/fl mice impaired the formation of acinar-to-ductal metaplasia (ADM) and PanIN independently of p53 mutation, while PDA formation was inhibited in the presence of p53 mutation. BRG1 bound to regions of the Sox9 promoter to regulate its expression and was critical for recruitment of upstream regulators, including PDX1, to the Sox9 promoter and enhancer in acinar cells. SOX9 expression was downregulated in BRG1-depleted ADMs/PanINs. Notably, Sox9 overexpression canceled this PanIN-attenuated phenotype in KBC mice. Furthermore, Brg1 deletion in established PanIN by using a dual recombinase system resulted in regression of the lesions in mice. Finally, BRG1 expression correlated with SOX9 expression in human PDAs. In summary, BRG1 is critical for PanIN initiation and progression through positive regulation of SOX9. Thus, the BRG1/SOX9 axis is a potential target for PanIN-derived PDA.
Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) adopts several unique metabolic strategies to support primary tumor growth. Whether additional metabolic strategies are adopted to support metastatic tumorigenesis is less clear. This could be particularly relevant for distant metastasis, which often follows a rapidly progressive clinical course. Here we report that PDAC distant metastases evolve a unique series of metabolic reactions to maintain activation of the anabolic glucose enzyme phosphogluconate dehydrogenase (PGD). PGD catalytic activity was recurrently elevated across distant metastases, and modulating PGD activity levels dictated tumorigenic capacity. Metabolomics data raised the possibility that distant metastases evolved a core pentose conversion pathway (PCP) that converted glucose-derived metabolites into PGD substrate, thereby hyperactivating the enzyme. Consistent with this, each individual metabolite in the PCP stimulated PGD catalysis in distant metastases, and knockdown of each individual PCP enzyme selectively impaired tumorigenesis. We propose that the PCP manufactures PGD substrate outside of the rate-limiting oxidative pentose phosphate pathway (oxPPP). This enables PGD-dependent tumorigenesis by providing adequate substrate to fuel high catalytic activity, and raises the possibility that PDAC distant metastases adopt their own unique metabolic strategies to support tumor growth.