KRAS-related proteins in pancreatic cancer

Karen M. Mann, Haoqiang Ying, Joseph Juan, Nancy A. Jenkins, Neal G. Copeland

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

91 Scopus citations


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is a highly metastatic disease with a high mortality rate. Genetic and biochemical studies have shown that RAS signaling mediated by KRAS plays a pivotal role in disease initiation, progression and drug resistance. RAS signaling affects several cellular processes in PDAC, including cellular proliferation, migration, cellular metabolism and autophagy. 90% of pancreatic cancer patients harbor somatic oncogenic point mutations in KRAS, which lead to constitutive activation of the molecule. Pancreatic cancers lacking KRAS mutations show activation of RAS via upstream signaling through receptor mediated tyrosine kinases, like EGFR, and in a small fraction of patients, oncogenic activation of the downstream B-RAF molecule is detected. RAS-stimulated signaling of RAF/MEK/ERK, PI3K/AKT/mTOR and RalA/B is active in human pancreatic cancers, cancer cell lines and mouse models of PDAC, although activation levels of each signaling arm appear to be variable across different tumors and perhaps within different subclones of single tumors. Recently, several targeted therapies directed towards MEK, ERK, PI3K and mTOR have been assayed in pancreatic cancer cell lines and in mouse models of the disease with promising results for their ability to impede cellular growth or delay tumor formation, and several inhibitors are currently in clinical trials. However, therapy-induced cross activation of RAS effector molecules has elucidated the complexities of targeting RAS signaling. Combinatorial therapies are now being explored as an approach to overcome RAS-induced therapeutic resistance in pancreatic cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)29-42
Number of pages14
JournalPharmacology and Therapeutics
StatePublished - Dec 1 2016


  • KRAS
  • Pancreatic cancer
  • Targeted therapies

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pharmacology
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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