Diabetes promotes invasive pancreatic cancer by increasing systemic and tumour carbonyl stress in Kras G12D/+mice

Stefano Menini, Carla Iacobini, Luisa De Latouliere, Isabella Manni, Martina Vitale, Emanuela Pilozzi, Carlo Pesce, Paola Cappello, Francesco Novelli, Giulia Piaggio, Giuseppe Pugliese

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Background: Type 1 and 2 diabetes confer an increased risk of pancreatic cancer (PaC) of similar magnitude, suggesting a common mechanism. The recent finding that PaC incidence increases linearly with increasing fasting glucose levels supports a central role for hyperglycaemia, which is known to cause carbonyl stress and advanced glycation end-product (AGE) accumulation through increased glycolytic activity and non-enzymatic reactions. This study investigated the impact of hyperglycaemia on invasive tumour development and the underlying mechanisms involved. Methods: Pdx1-Cre;LSL-Kras G12D/+ mice were interbred with mitosis luciferase reporter mice, rendered diabetic with streptozotocin and treated or not with carnosinol (FL-926-16), a selective scavenger of reactive carbonyl species (RCS) and, as such, an inhibitor of AGE formation. Mice were monitored for tumour development by in vivo bioluminescence imaging. At the end of the study, pancreatic tissue was collected for histology/immunohistochemistry and molecular analyses. Mechanistic studies were performed in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma cell lines challenged with high glucose, glycolysis- and glycoxidation-derived RCS, their protein adducts AGEs and sera from diabetic patients. Results: Cumulative incidence of invasive PaC at 22 weeks of age was 75% in untreated diabetic vs 25% in FL-926-16-gtreated diabetic and 8.3% in non-diabetic mice. FL-926-16 treatment suppressed systemic and pancreatic carbonyl stress, extracellular signal-regulated kinases (ERK) 1/2 activation, and nuclear translocation of Yes-associated protein (YAP) in pancreas. In vitro, RCS scavenging and AGE elimination completely inhibited cell proliferation stimulated by high glucose, and YAP proved essential in mediating the effects of both glucose-derived RCS and their protein adducts AGEs. However, RCS and AGEs induced YAP activity through distinct pathways, causing reduction of Large Tumour Suppressor Kinase 1 and activation of the Epidermal Growth Factor Receptor/ERK signalling pathway, respectively. Conclusions: An RCS scavenger and AGE inhibitor prevented the accelerating effect of diabetes on PainINs progression to invasive PaC, showing that hyperglycaemia promotes PaC mainly through increased carbonyl stress. In vitro experiments demonstrated that both circulating RCS/AGEs and tumour cell-derived carbonyl stress generated by excess glucose metabolism induce proliferation by YAP activation, hence providing a molecular mechanism underlying the link between diabetes and PaC (and cancer in general).

Original languageEnglish
Article number152
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Aug 10 2020


  • Advanced glycation end-products
  • Carnosine derivatives
  • Epidermal growth factor receptor
  • Extracellular signal-regulated kinases 1/2
  • Hyperglycaemia
  • Large tumour suppressor kinase 1
  • Methylglyoxal
  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma
  • Reactive carbonyl species
  • Yes-associated protein

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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