Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Xiangwei Wu

Committee Member

Carlos Caulin

Committee Member

Bingliang Fang

Committee Member

Xin Lin

Committee Member

Guang Peng


Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death in both men and women in the United States and worldwide. Despite improvement in treatment strategies, the 5-year survival rate of lung cancer patients remains low. Thus, effective chemoprevention and treatment approaches are sorely needed. Mutations and activation of KRAS occur frequently in tobacco users and the early stage of development of non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLC). So they are thought to be the primary driver for lung carcinogenesis. My work showed that KRAS mutations and activations modulated the expression of TNF-related apoptosis-inducing ligand (TRAIL) receptors by up-regulating death receptors and down-regulating decoy receptors. In addition, we showed that KRAS suppresses cellular FADD-like IL-1β-converting enzyme (FLICE)-like inhibitory protein (c-FLIP) expression through activation of ERK/MAPK-mediated activation of c-MYC which means the mutant KRAS cells could be specifically targeted via TRAIL induced apoptosis. The expression level of Inhibitors of Apoptosis Proteins (IAPs) in mutant KRAS cells is usually high which could be overcome by the second mitochondria-derived activator of caspases (Smac) mimetic. So the combination of TRAIL and Smac mimetic induced the synthetic lethal reaction specifically in the mutant-KRAS cells but not in normal lung cells and wild-type KRAS lung cancer cells. Therefore, a synthetic lethal interaction among TRAIL, Smac mimetic and KRAS mutations could be used as an approach for chemoprevention and treatment of NSCLC with KRAS mutations. Further data in animal experiments showed that short-term, intermittent treatment with TRAIL and Smac mimetic induced apoptosis in mutant KRAS cells and reduced tumor burden in a KRAS-induced pre-malignancy model and mutant KRAS NSCLC xenograft models. These results show the great potential benefit of a selective therapeutic approach for the chemoprevention and treatment of NSCLC with KRAS mutations.


NSCLC, KRAS, Synthetic lethality, Chemoprevention



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