Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Craig D. Logsdon

Committee Member

David J. McConkey

Committee Member

Joya Chandra

Committee Member

Donghui Li

Committee Member

Russell Broaddus


Obesity is postulated to be one of the major risk factors for pancreatic cancer, and recently it was indicated that an elevated body mass index (BMI correlates strongly with a decrease in patient survival. Despite the evident relationship, the molecular mechanisms involved are unclear. Oncogenic mutation of K-Ras is found early and is universal in pancreatic cancer. Extensive evidence indicates oncogenic K-Ras is not entirely active and it requires a triggering event to surpass the activity of Ras beyond the threshold necessary for a Ras-inflammation feed-forward loop. We hypothesize that high fat intake induces a persistent low level inflammatory response triggering increased K-Ras activity and that Cox-2 is essential for this inflammatory reaction. To determine this, LSL-K-Ras mice were crossed with Ela-CreER (Acinar-specific) or Pdx-1-Cre (Pancreas-specific) to “knock-in” oncogenic K-Ras. Additionally, these animals were crossed with Cox-2 conditional knockout mice to access the importance of Cox-2 in the inflammatory loop present. The mice were fed isocaloric diets containing 60% energy or 10% energy from fat. We found that a high fat diet increased K-Ras activity, PanIN formation, and fibrotic stroma significantly compared to a control diet. Genetic deletion of Cox-2 prevented high fat diet induced fibrosis and PanIN formation in oncogenic K-Ras expressing mice. Additionally, long term consumption of high fat diet, increased the progression of PanIN lesions leading to invasive cancer and decreased overall survival rate. These findings indicate that a high fat diet can stimulate the activation of oncogenic K-Ras and initiate an inflammatory feed forward loop requiring Cox-2 leading to inflammation, fibrosis, and PanINs. This mechanism could explain the relationship between a high fat diet and elevated risk for pancreatic cancer.


K-Ras, Obesity, High Fat Diet, Cox-2, Pancreatic Cancer, PDAC



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