Keratin 17 modulates the immune topography of pancreatic cancer

Lyanne Delgado-Coka, Michael Horowitz, Mariana Torrente-Goncalves, Lucia Roa-Peña, Cindy V. Leiton, Mahmudul Hasan, Sruthi Babu, Danielle Fassler, Jaymie Oentoro, Ji Dong K. Bai, Emanuel F. Petricoin, Lynn M. Matrisian, Edik Matthew Blais, Natalia Marchenko, Felicia D. Allard, Wei Jiang, Brent Larson, Andrew Hendifar, Chao Chen, Shahira AbousamraDimitris Samaras, Tahsin Kurc, Joel Saltz*, Luisa F. Escobar-Hoyos*, Kenneth R. Shroyer*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Background: The immune microenvironment impacts tumor growth, invasion, metastasis, and patient survival and may provide opportunities for therapeutic intervention in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Although never studied as a potential modulator of the immune response in most cancers, Keratin 17 (K17), a biomarker of the most aggressive (basal) molecular subtype of PDAC, is intimately involved in the histogenesis of the immune response in psoriasis, basal cell carcinoma, and cervical squamous cell carcinoma. Thus, we hypothesized that K17 expression could also impact the immune cell response in PDAC, and that uncovering this relationship could provide insight to guide the development of immunotherapeutic opportunities to extend patient survival. Methods: Multiplex immunohistochemistry (mIHC) and automated image analysis based on novel computational imaging technology were used to decipher the abundance and spatial distribution of T cells, macrophages, and tumor cells, relative to K17 expression in 235 PDACs. Results: K17 expression had profound effects on the exclusion of intratumoral CD8+ T cells and was also associated with decreased numbers of peritumoral CD8+ T cells, CD16+ macrophages, and CD163+ macrophages (p < 0.0001). The differences in the intratumor and peritumoral CD8+ T cell abundance were not impacted by neoadjuvant therapy, tumor stage, grade, lymph node status, histologic subtype, nor KRAS, p53, SMAD4, or CDKN2A mutations. Conclusions: Thus, K17 expression correlates with major differences in the immune microenvironment that are independent of any tested clinicopathologic or tumor intrinsic variables, suggesting that targeting K17-mediated immune effects on the immune system could restore the innate immunologic response to PDAC and might provide novel opportunities to restore immunotherapeutic approaches for this most deadly form of cancer.

Original languageEnglish
Article number443
JournalJournal of Translational Medicine
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2024
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer biomarker
  • Cancer immunology
  • Digital pathology
  • Immune microenvironment
  • Keratin 17
  • Multiplexed immunohistochemistry
  • Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma


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