Although the mechanistic target of rapamycin (MTOR) kinase, included in the mTORC1 and mTORC2 signalling hubs, has been demonstrated to be active in a significant fraction of patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC), the value of the kinase as a therapeutic target needs further clarification.
We used Mtor floxed mice to analyse the function of the kinase in context of the pancreas at the genetic level. Using a dual-recombinase system, which is based on the flippase-FRT (Flp-FRT) and Cre-loxP recombination technologies, we generated a novel cellular model, allowing the genetic analysis of MTOR functions in tumour maintenance. Cross-species validation and pharmacological intervention studies were used to recapitulate genetic data in human models, including primary human 3D PDAC cultures.
Genetic deletion of the Mtor gene in the pancreas results in exocrine and endocrine insufficiency. In established murine PDAC cells, MTOR is linked to metabolic pathways and maintains the glucose uptake and growth. Importantly, blocking MTOR genetically as well as pharmacologically results in adaptive rewiring of oncogenic signalling with activation of canonical extracellular signal-regulated kinase and phosphoinositide 3-kinase-AKT pathways. We provide evidence that interfering with such adaptive signalling in murine and human PDAC models is important in a subgroup.
Our data suggest developing dual MTORC1/TORC2 inhibitor-based therapies for subtype-specific intervention.