Statin-mediated inhibition of RAS prenylation activates ER stress to enhance the immunogenicity of KRAS mutant cancer

J Immunother Cancer. 2021 Jul;9(7):e002474. doi: 10.1136/jitc-2021-002474.


Background: Statins preferentially promote tumor-specific apoptosis by depleting isoprenoid such as farnesyl pyrophosphate and geranylgeranyl pyrophosphate. However, statins have not yet been approved for clinical cancer treatment due, in part, to poor understanding of molecular determinants on statin sensitivity. Here, we investigated the potential of statins to elicit enhanced immunogenicity of KRAS-mutant (KRAS mut) tumors.

Methods: The immunogenicity of treated cancer cells was determined by western blot, flow cytometry and confocal microscopy. The immunotherapeutic efficacy of mono or combination therapy using statin was assessed in KRASmut tumor models, including syngeneic colorectal cancer and genetically engineered lung and pancreatic tumors. Using NanoString analysis, we analyzed how statin influenced the gene signatures associated with the antigen presentation of dendritic cells in vivo and evaluated whether statin could induce CD8+ T-cell immunity. Multiplex immunohistochemistry was performed to better understand the complicated tumor-immune microenvironment.

Results: Statin-mediated inhibition of KRAS prenylation provoked severe endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stress by attenuating the anti-ER stress effect of KRAS mutation, thereby resulting in the immunogenic cell death (ICD) of KRAS mut cancer cells. Moreover, statin-mediated ICD enhanced the cross-priming ability of dendritic cells, thereby provoking CD8+ T-cell immune responses against KRAS mut tumors. Combination therapy using statin and oxaliplatin, an ICD inducer, significantly enhanced the immunogenicity of KRAS mut tumors and promoted tumor-specific immunity in syngeneic and genetically engineered KRAS mut tumor models. Along with immune-checkpoint inhibitors, the abovementioned combination therapy overcame resistance to PD-1 blockade therapies, improving the survival rate of KRAS mut tumor models.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that KRAS mutation could be a molecular target for statins to elicit potent tumor-specific immunity.

Keywords: CD8-positive T-lymphocytes; antigen presentation; combination; dendritic cells; drug therapy; immunotherapy.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Endoplasmic Reticulum Stress / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Male
  • Mice
  • Mutation
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras) / drug effects*
  • Transfection


  • Hydroxymethylglutaryl-CoA Reductase Inhibitors
  • Proto-Oncogene Proteins p21(ras)