KRAS mutant pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by a desmoplastic response that promotes hypovascularity, immunosuppression, and resistance to chemo- and immunotherapies. We show that a combination of MEK and CDK4/6 inhibitors that target KRAS-directed oncogenic signaling can suppress PDAC proliferation through induction of retinoblastoma (RB) protein-mediated senescence. In preclinical mouse models of PDAC, this senescence-inducing therapy produces a senescence-associated secretory phenotype (SASP) that includes pro-angiogenic factors that promote tumor vascularization, which in turn enhances drug delivery and efficacy of cytotoxic gemcitabine chemotherapy. In addition, SASP-mediated endothelial cell activation stimulates the accumulation of CD8+ T cells into otherwise immunologically "cold" tumors, sensitizing tumors to PD-1 checkpoint blockade. Therefore, in PDAC models, therapy-induced senescence can establish emergent susceptibilities to otherwise ineffective chemo- and immunotherapies through SASP-dependent effects on the tumor vasculature and immune system.
Keywords: T cells; chemotherapy resistance; endothelial cell activation; immunotherapy; pancreatic cancer; senescence; senescence-associated secretory phenotype; targeted therapy; tumor microenvironment; vascular biology.
Copyright © 2020. Published by Elsevier Inc.