Oncogenic KRAS-Driven Metabolic Reprogramming in Pancreatic Cancer Cells Utilizes Cytokines from the Tumor Microenvironment

Cancer Discov. 2020 Apr;10(4):608-625. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-19-0297. Epub 2020 Feb 11.

Abstract

A hallmark of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is an exuberant stroma comprised of diverse cell types that enable or suppress tumor progression. Here, we explored the role of oncogenic KRAS in protumorigenic signaling interactions between cancer cells and host cells. We show that KRAS mutation (KRAS*) drives cell-autonomous expression of type I cytokine receptor complexes (IL2rγ-IL4rα and IL2rγ-IL13rα1) in cancer cells that in turn are capable of receiving cytokine growth signals (IL4 or IL13) provided by invading Th2 cells in the microenvironment. Early neoplastic lesions show close proximity of cancer cells harboring KRAS* and Th2 cells producing IL4 and IL13. Activated IL2rγ-IL4rα and IL2rγ-IL13rα1 receptors signal primarily via JAK1-STAT6. Integrated transcriptomic, chromatin occupancy, and metabolomic studies identified MYC as a direct target of activated STAT6 and that MYC drives glycolysis. Thus, paracrine signaling in the tumor microenvironment plays a key role in the KRAS*-driven metabolic reprogramming of PDAC. SIGNIFICANCE: Type II cytokines, secreted by Th2 cells in the tumor microenvironment, can stimulate cancer cell-intrinsic MYC transcriptional upregulation to drive glycolysis. This KRAS*-driven heterotypic signaling circuit in the early and advanced tumor microenvironment enables cooperative protumorigenic interactions, providing candidate therapeutic targets in the KRAS* pathway for this intractable disease.