Squamous trans-differentiation of pancreatic cancer cells promotes stromal inflammation

Tim D.D. Somerville, Giulia Biffi, Juliane Daßler-Plenker, Stella K. Hur, Xue Yan He, Krysten E. Vance, Koji Miyabayashi, Yali Xu, Diogo Maia-Silva, Olaf Klingbeil, Osama E. Demerdash, Jonathan B. Preall, Michael A. Hollingsworth, Mikala Egeblad, David A. Tuveson, Christopher R. Vakoc

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

41 Scopus citations


A highly aggressive subset of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinomas undergo transdifferentiation into the squamous lineage during disease progression. Here, we investigated whether squamous trans-differentiation of human and mouse pancreatic cancer cells can influence the phenotype of non-neoplastic cells in the tumor microenvironment. Conditioned media experiments revealed that squamous pancreatic cancer cells secrete factors that recruit neutrophils and convert pancreatic stellate cells into cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) that express inflammatory cytokines at high levels. We use gain-and loss-of-function approaches to show that squamous-subtype pancreatic tumor models become enriched with neutrophils and inflammatory CAFs in a p63-dependent manner. These effects occur, at least in part, through p63-mediated activation of enhancers at pro-inflammatory cytokine loci, which includes IL1A and CXCL1 as key targets. Taken together, our findings reveal enhanced tissue inflammation as a consequence of squamous trans-differentiation in pancreatic cancer, thus highlighting an instructive role of tumor cell lineage in reprogramming the stromal microenvironment.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article numbere53381
StatePublished - Apr 2020

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Neuroscience(all)
  • Biochemistry, Genetics and Molecular Biology(all)
  • Immunology and Microbiology(all)


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