Genetic screens identify a context-specific PI3K/p27Kip1 node driving extrahepatic biliary cancer

Falcomata, C., Barthel, S., Ulrich, A., Diersch, S., Veltkamp, C., Rad, L., Boniolo, F., Solar, M., Steiger, K., Seidler, B., Zukowska, M., Madej, J., Wang, M., Ollinger, R., Maresch, R., Barenboim, M., Eser, S., Tschurtschenthaler, M., Mehrabi, A., Roessler, S., Goeppert, B., Kind, A., Schnieke, A., Robles, M. S., Bradley, A., Schmid, R. M., Schmidt-Supprian, M., Reichert, M., Weichert, W., Sansom, O. J., Morton, J. P., Rad, R., Schneider, G., and Saur, D. (2021). Cancer Discov 11, 3158-3177. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-21-0209


Biliary tract cancer ranks among the most lethal human malignancies, representing an unmet clinical need. Its abysmal prognosis is tied to an increasing incidence and a fundamental lack of mechanistic knowledge regarding the molecular basis of the disease. Here, we show that the Pdx1-positive extrahepatic biliary epithelium is highly susceptible towards transformation by activated Pik3caH1047R, but refractory to oncogenic KrasG12D. Using genome-wide transposon screens and genetic loss-of-function experiments, we discover context-dependent genetic interactions that drive extrahepatic cholangiocarcinoma (ECC) and show that PI3K-signaling output strength and repression of the tumor-suppressor p27Kip1 are critical context-specific determinants of tumor formation. This contrasts the pancreas, where oncogenic Kras in concert with Trp53-loss are key cancer-drivers. Notably, inactivation of p27Kip1 permits KrasG12D-driven ECC development. These studies provide a mechanistic link between PI3K-signaling, tissue-specific tumor suppressor barriers, and ECC pathogenesis, and present a novel genetic model of autochthonous ECC and genes driving this highly lethal tumor-subtype.