Pancreatic cancer is characterized by extensive resistance to conventional therapies, making clinical management a challenge. Here we map the epigenetic dependencies of cancer stem cells, cells that preferentially evade therapy and drive progression, and identify SWI/SNF complex member SMARCD3 as a regulator of pancreatic cancer cells. Although SWI/SNF subunits often act as tumor suppressors, we show that SMARCD3 is amplified in cancer, enriched in pancreatic cancer stem cells and upregulated in the human disease. Diverse genetic mouse models of pancreatic cancer and stage-specific Smarcd3 deletion reveal that Smarcd3 loss preferentially impacts established tumors, improving survival especially in context of chemotherapy. Mechanistically, SMARCD3 acts with FOXA1 to control lipid and fatty acid metabolism, programs associated with therapy resistance and poor prognosis in cancer. These data identify SMARCD3 as an epigenetic modulator responsible for establishing the metabolic landscape in aggressive pancreatic cancer cells and a potential target for new therapies.
© 2023. The Author(s).