Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) requires mitochondrial oxidative phosphorylation (OXPHOS) to fuel its growth; however, broadly inhibiting this pathway might also disrupt essential mitochondrial functions in normal tissues. PDAC cells exhibit abnormally fragmented mitochondria that are essential to the oncogenicity of PDAC, but it was unclear if this mitochondrial feature was a valid therapeutic target. Here, we present evidence that normalizing the fragmented mitochondria of pancreatic cancer via the process of mitochondrial fusion reduces OXPHOS, which correlates with suppressed tumor growth and improved survival in preclinical models. Mitochondrial fusion was achieved by genetic or pharmacologic inhibition of dynamin-related protein-1 (Drp1) or through overexpression of mitofusin-2 (Mfn2). Notably, we found that oral leflunomide, an FDA-approved arthritis drug, promoted a 2-fold increase in Mfn2 expression in tumors and was repurposed as a chemotherapeutic agent, improving the median survival of mice with spontaneous tumors by 50% compared with vehicle. We found that the chief tumor-suppressive mechanism of mitochondrial fusion was enhanced mitophagy, which proportionally reduced mitochondrial mass and ATP production. These data suggest that mitochondrial fusion is a specific and druggable regulator of pancreatic cancer growth that could be rapidly translated to the clinic.
Meifang Yu, Nicholas D. Nguyen, Yanqing Huang, Daniel Lin, Tara N. Fujimoto, Jessica M. Molkentine, Amit Deorukhkar, Ya’an Kang, F. Anthony San Lucas, Conrad J. Fernandes, Eugene J. Koay, Sonal Gupta, Haoqiang Ying, Albert C. Koong, Joseph M. Herman, Jason B. Fleming, Anirban Maitra, Cullen M. Taniguchi
Guidelines: The Editorial Board will only consider letters that we deem relevant and of interest to our readers. We will not post data that have not been subjected to peer review, nor will we post letters that are essentially a reiteration of another letter. All accepted letters will be posted on our website within one week of acceptance. We reserve the right to edit any letter for length, content, and clarity. Authors of all accepted letters will be asked to preview any changes. Authors will be notified by e-mail if their letters were not accepted. As this is a final decision, no appeals will be considered.
Specific requirements: All letters must be 400 words or fewer. You may enter the letter as plain text or HTML. The author's name and e-mail address are required, and will be posted with the letter. All possible conflicts of interest must be noted, even if they are not posted. If you wish to include a figure (keep in mind that non-peer-reviewed data will not be posted), please contact the editors directly at firstname.lastname@example.org.