KRAS-Driven Metabolic Rewiring Reveals Novel Actionable Targets in Cancer

Front Oncol. 2019 Aug 30;9:848. doi: 10.3389/fonc.2019.00848. eCollection 2019.


Tumors driven by mutant KRAS are among the most aggressive and refractory to treatment. Unfortunately, despite the efforts, targeting alterations of this GTPase, either directly or by acting on the downstream signaling cascades, has been, so far, largely unsuccessful. However, recently, novel therapeutic opportunities are emerging based on the effect that this oncogenic lesion exerts in rewiring the cancer cell metabolism. Cancer cells that become dependent on KRAS-driven metabolic adaptations are sensitive to the inhibition of these metabolic routes, revealing novel therapeutic windows of intervention. In general, mutant KRAS fosters tumor growth by shifting cancer cell metabolism toward anabolic pathways. Depending on the tumor, KRAS-driven metabolic rewiring occurs by up-regulating rate-limiting enzymes involved in amino acid, fatty acid, or nucleotide biosynthesis, and by stimulating scavenging pathways such as macropinocytosis and autophagy, which, in turn, provide building blocks to the anabolic routes, also maintaining the energy levels and the cell redox potential (1). This review will discuss the most recent findings on mutant KRAS metabolic reliance in tumor models of pancreatic and non-small-cell lung cancer, also highlighting the role that these metabolic adaptations play in resistance to target therapy. The effects of constitutive KRAS activation in glycolysis elevation, amino acids metabolism reprogramming, fatty acid turnover, and nucleotide biosynthesis will be discussed also in the context of different genetic landscapes.

Keywords: KRAS; NSCLC; PDAC; gluocose metabolism in cancer; glycolysis; metabolic adaptability in cancer; metabolic rewiring.

Publication types

  • Review