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      KRAS Mutant Pancreatic Cancer: No Lone Path to an Effective Treatment

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      Cancers

      MDPI

      RAS, pancreatic, cancer, therapeutics

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          Abstract

          Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is among the deadliest cancers with a dismal 7% 5-year survival rate and is projected to become the second leading cause of cancer-related deaths by 2020. KRAS is mutated in 95% of PDACs and is a well-validated driver of PDAC growth and maintenance. However, despite comprehensive efforts, an effective anti-RAS drug has yet to reach the clinic. Different paths to inhibiting RAS signaling are currently under investigation in the hope of finding a successful treatment. Recently, direct RAS binding molecules have been discovered, challenging the perception that RAS is an “undruggable” protein. Other strategies currently being pursued take an indirect approach, targeting proteins that facilitate RAS membrane association or downstream effector signaling. Unbiased genetic screens have identified synthetic lethal interactors of mutant RAS. Most recently, metabolic targets in pathways related to glycolytic signaling, glutamine utilization, autophagy, and macropinocytosis are also being explored. Harnessing the patient’s immune system to fight their cancer is an additional exciting route that is being considered. The “best” path to inhibiting KRAS has yet to be determined, with each having promise as well as potential pitfalls. We will summarize the state-of-the-art for each direction, focusing on efforts directed toward the development of therapeutics for pancreatic cancer patients with mutated KRAS.

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          Most cited references 99

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          Oncogenic Kras Maintains Pancreatic Tumors through Regulation of Anabolic Glucose Metabolism

          Tumor maintenance relies on continued activity of driver oncogenes, although their rate-limiting role is highly context dependent. Oncogenic Kras mutation is the signature event in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), serving a critical role in tumor initiation. Here, an inducible Kras(G12D)-driven PDAC mouse model establishes that advanced PDAC remains strictly dependent on Kras(G12D) expression. Transcriptome and metabolomic analyses indicate that Kras(G12D) serves a vital role in controlling tumor metabolism through stimulation of glucose uptake and channeling of glucose intermediates into the hexosamine biosynthesis and pentose phosphate pathways (PPP). These studies also reveal that oncogenic Kras promotes ribose biogenesis. Unlike canonical models, we demonstrate that Kras(G12D) drives glycolysis intermediates into the nonoxidative PPP, thereby decoupling ribose biogenesis from NADP/NADPH-mediated redox control. Together, this work provides in vivo mechanistic insights into how oncogenic Kras promotes metabolic reprogramming in native tumors and illuminates potential metabolic targets that can be exploited for therapeutic benefit in PDAC. Copyright © 2012 Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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            Pancreatic cancers require autophagy for tumor growth.

            Macroautophagy (autophagy) is a regulated catabolic pathway to degrade cellular organelles and macromolecules. The role of autophagy in cancer is complex and may differ depending on tumor type or context. Here we show that pancreatic cancers have a distinct dependence on autophagy. Pancreatic cancer primary tumors and cell lines show elevated autophagy under basal conditions. Genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of autophagy leads to increased reactive oxygen species, elevated DNA damage, and a metabolic defect leading to decreased mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation. Together, these ultimately result in significant growth suppression of pancreatic cancer cells in vitro. Most importantly, inhibition of autophagy by genetic means or chloroquine treatment leads to robust tumor regression and prolonged survival in pancreatic cancer xenografts and genetic mouse models. These results suggest that, unlike in other cancers where autophagy inhibition may synergize with chemotherapy or targeted agents by preventing the up-regulation of autophagy as a reactive survival mechanism, autophagy is actually required for tumorigenic growth of pancreatic cancers de novo, and drugs that inactivate this process may have a unique clinical utility in treating pancreatic cancers and other malignancies with a similar dependence on autophagy. As chloroquine and its derivatives are potent inhibitors of autophagy and have been used safely in human patients for decades for a variety of purposes, these results are immediately translatable to the treatment of pancreatic cancer patients, and provide a much needed, novel vantage point of attack.
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              Cancer-associated stromal fibroblasts promote pancreatic tumor progression.

              Pancreatic adenocarcinoma is characterized by a dense background of tumor associated stroma originating from abundant pancreatic stellate cells. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of human pancreatic stellate cells (HPSC) on pancreatic tumor progression. HPSCs were isolated from resected pancreatic adenocarcinoma samples and immortalized with telomerase and SV40 large T antigen. Effects of HPSC conditioned medium (HPSC-CM) on in vitro proliferation, migration, invasion, soft-agar colony formation, and survival in the presence of gemcitabine or radiation therapy were measured in two pancreatic cancer cell lines. The effects of HPSCs on tumors were examined in an orthotopic murine model of pancreatic cancer by co-injecting them with cancer cells and analyzing growth and metastasis. HPSC-CM dose-dependently increased BxPC3 and Panc1 tumor cell proliferation, migration, invasion, and colony formation. Furthermore, gemcitabine and radiation therapy were less effective in tumor cells treated with HPSC-CM. HPSC-CM activated the mitogen-activated protein kinase and Akt pathways in tumor cells. Co-injection of tumor cells with HPSCs in an orthotopic model resulted in increased primary tumor incidence, size, and metastasis, which corresponded with the proportion of HPSCs. HPSCs produce soluble factors that stimulate signaling pathways related to proliferation and survival of pancreatic cancer cells, and the presence of HPSCs in tumors increases the growth and metastasis of these cells. These data indicate that stellate cells have an important role in supporting and promoting pancreatic cancer. Identification of HPSC-derived factors may lead to novel stroma-targeted therapies for pancreatic cancer.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                Role: Academic Editor
                Journal
                Cancers (Basel)
                Cancers (Basel)
                cancers
                Cancers
                MDPI
                2072-6694
                18 April 2016
                April 2016
                : 8
                : 4
                Affiliations
                Lineberger Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, Chapel Hill, NC 27599, USA; dzeitoun@ 123456live.unc.edu (D.Z.); yuliyap1@ 123456email.unc.edu (Y.P-G.); bryantkl@ 123456email.unc.edu (K.L.B.)
                Author notes
                [* ]Correspondence: cjder@ 123456med.unc.edu ; Tel.: +1-919-966-5634
                Article
                cancers-08-00045
                10.3390/cancers8040045
                4846854
                27096871
                © 2016 by the authors; licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.

                This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC-BY) license ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/).

                Categories
                Review

                ras, pancreatic, cancer, therapeutics

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