Purpose: The gastric adenocarcinoma (GC) represents the third cause of cancer-related mortality worldwide, and available therapeutic options remain sub-optimal. The Fibroblast growth factor receptors (FGFRs) are oncogenic transmembrane tyrosine kinase receptors. FGFR inhibitors have been approved for the treatment of various cancers and a STAT3-dependent regulation of FGFR4 has been documented in the H.pylori infected intestinal GC. Therefore, the modulation of FGFR4 might be useful for the treatment of GC. Methods: To investigate wich factors could modulate FGFR4 signalling in GC, we employed RNA-seq analysis on GC patients biopsies, human patients derived organoids (PDOs) and cancer cell lines. Results: We report that FGFR4 expression/function is regulated by the leukemia inhibitory factor (LIF) an IL-6 related oncogenic cytokine, in JAK1/STAT3 dependent manner. The transcriptomic analysis revealed a direct correlation between the expression of LIFR and FGFR4 in the tissue of an exploratory cohort of 31 GC and confirmed these findings by two external validation cohorts of GC. A LIFR inhibitor (LIR-201) abrogates STAT3 phosphorylation induced by LIF as well as recruitment of pSTAT3 to the promoter of FGFR4. Furthermore, inhibition of FGFR4 by roblitinib or siRNA abrogates STAT3 phosphorylation and oncogentic effects of LIF in GC cells, indicating that FGFR4 is a downstream target of LIF/LIFR complex. Treating cells with LIR-201 abrogates oncogenic potential of FGF19, the physiological ligand of FGFR4. Conclusions: Together these data unreveal a previously unregnized regulatory mechanism of FGFR4 by LIF/LIFR and demonstrate that LIF and FGF19 converge on the regulation of oncogenic STAT3 in GC cells.
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