Thrombin Signaling Promotes Pancreatic Adenocarcinoma through PAR-1-Dependent Immune Evasion

Cancer Res. 2019 Jul 1;79(13):3417-3430. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-18-3206. Epub 2019 May 2.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is associated with robust activity of the coagulation system. To determine mechanisms by which clotting factors influence PDAC tumor progression, we generated and characterized C57Bl/6-derived KPC (KRasG12D, TRP53R172H ) cell lines. Tissue factor (TF) and protease-activated receptor-1 (PAR-1) were highly expressed in primary KPC pancreatic lesions and KPC cell lines similar to expression profiles observed in biopsies of patients with PDAC. In allograft studies, tumor growth and metastatic potential were significantly diminished by depletion of TF or Par-1 in cancer cells or by genetic or pharmacologic reduction of the coagulation zymogen prothrombin in mice. Notably, PAR-1-deleted KPC cells (KPC-Par-1KO) failed to generate sizable tumors, a phenotype completely rescued by restoration of Par-1 expression. Expression profiling of KPC and KPC-Par-1KO cells indicated that thrombin-PAR-1 signaling significantly altered immune regulation pathways. Accordingly, KPC-Par-1KO cells failed to form tumors in immune-competent mice but displayed robust tumor growth comparable to that observed with control KPC cells in immune-compromised NSG mice. Immune cell depletion studies indicated that CD8 T cells, but not CD4 cells or natural killer cells, mediated elimination of KPC-Par-1KO tumor cells in C57Bl/6 mice. These results demonstrate that PDAC is driven by activation of the coagulation system through tumor cell-derived TF, circulating prothrombin, and tumor cell-derived PAR-1 and further indicate that one key mechanism of thrombin/PAR-1-mediated tumor growth is suppression of antitumor immunity in the tumor microenvironment. SIGNIFICANCE: The tissue factor-thrombin-PAR-1 signaling axis in tumor cells promotes PDAC growth and disease progression with one key mechanism being suppression of antitumor immunity in the microenvironment.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / immunology
  • Adenocarcinoma / metabolism
  • Adenocarcinoma / pathology*
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal / pathology*
  • Immune Evasion / immunology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / immunology
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Receptor, PAR-1 / physiology*
  • Signal Transduction
  • Thrombin / metabolism*
  • Thromboplastin / metabolism
  • Tumor Cells, Cultured
  • Tumor Microenvironment / immunology*


  • Receptor, PAR-1
  • Thromboplastin
  • Thrombin