Genetically engineered mouse models (GEMMs) have greatly expanded our knowledge of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) and serve as a critical tool to identify and evaluate new treatment strategies. However, the cost and time required to generate conventional pancreatic cancer GEMMs limits their use for investigating novel genetic interactions in tumor development and maintenance. To address this problem, we developed flexible embryonic stem cell (ESC)-based GEMMs that facilitate the rapid generation of genetically defined multiallelic chimeric mice without further strain intercrossing. The ESCs harbor a latent Kras mutant (a nearly ubiquitous feature of pancreatic cancer), a homing cassette, and other genetic elements needed for rapid insertion and conditional expression of tetracycline-controlled transgenes, including fluorescence-coupled shRNAs capable of efficiently silencing gene function by RNAi. This system produces a disease that recapitulates the progression of pancreatic cancer in human patients and enables the study and visualization of the impact of gene perturbation at any stage of pancreas cancer progression. We describe the use of this approach to dissect temporal roles for the tumor suppressor Pten and the oncogene c-Myc in pancreatic cancer development and maintenance.
Keywords: RMCE; embryonic stem cell; kras; mouse model; pancreas; pancreatic cancer.