Thu 25 Feb 13:00: Mechanisms and consequences of pancreatic cancer stromal evolution

Mechanisms and consequences of pancreatic cancer stromal evolution

The mechanisms underlying evolution of tumor-associated stroma remain poorly understood. In solid tumors featuring a prominent stromal reaction, an improved understanding of the functions and origins of abundant stromal cell types may facilitate the development of new and effective therapies. Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the quintessence of a fibro-inflammatory malignancy, with 50-90% of tumor volume occupied by a dense, desmoplastic stroma. Cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) are the key cell type which drives the stromal reaction in PDAC , and recent reports suggest that stromal CAFs represent a heterogeneous population of cells from diverse origins, potentially including cell types which support and others which suppress tumor growth. Pancreatic stellate cells (PSCs) are lipid-storing cells in healthy pancreas which can transdifferentiate to an activated CAF phenotype. PSCs have been suggested as the predominant source of fibroblasts in the PDAC tumor microenvironment. However, proper lineage tracing studies have never been performed, such that the relative contribution and specific functions of PSCs in the tumor microenvironment are unknown. We have developed a novel mouse model to track PSC differentiation and function during pancreatic tumor progression in vivo. This model revealed that PSC -derived CAFs in fact give rise to a numerically minor but functionally significant subset of PDAC CA Fs, and may represent a viable therapeutic target. We adapted our mouse model to enable targeted ablation of PSCs and derivative CAFs within their host tissue for the first time. Functional studies in this model reveal non-redundant functions for PSC -derived CAFs in shaping the PDAC microenvironment, and highlight the significance of mesenchymal lineage heterogeneity for pancreatic tumorigenesis. Further, we find that tumor genotype with respect to p53 status dictates stromal evolutionary routes with respect to cell of origin, a finding that may extend to additional cancer cell-intrinsic genomic alterations. Together, these findings shed light on mechanisms that shape the tumor microenvironment during pancreatic cancer progression, and may hold relevance in additional solid tumor types.

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