Pancreatic cancer is nearly asymptomatic, which can result in extensive grow and even metastasis to other organs before detection. When diagnosed at a late stage, the survival rate is 3%. Early detection is therefore the key to treating pancreatic cancer. Diabetes was identified as a risk factor for the development of pancreatic cancer, but the mechanism remains unknown. In this project, the objective was to delineate a link between diabetes and pancreatic cancer by examining their shared protein signaling pathways. In a previous study, hyper-activation of AKT1 resulted in a pre-diabetic phenotype and also increased upregulation of downstream phosphorylated mTOR and phosphorylated p70S6 kinase. More recently, mice with mutations that hyper-activated AKT1 and KRAS showed a significantly higher blood glucose level compared to littermate matched wild-type, mutant AKT1, or mutant KRAS mice. Interestingly, mice with a combination of mutations that hyper-activated AKT1 and KRAS also showed faster development of pancreatic cancer compared to these other groups of littermate mice.

Toward determining a molecular basis for the crosstalk between AKT1 and KRAS, pancreas and liver tissues were collected from all four groups of mice including wild-type, mutant AKT1, mutant KRAS, and mice with dual AKT1/KRAS hyper-activation. One strategy was to examine expression and/or phosphorylation of downstream protein signaling crosstalk by analysis of p70S6K using Western Blots. Erk 1/2 proteins were also tested as downstream proteins of KRAS to provide a molecular view of the individual and cooperative roles of AKT1 and KRAS in the mouse models. A potential feedback mechanism to affect insulin receptor signaling in the pancreas was examined using enzyme-linked immunosorbent assays (ELISA). A significant decrease in insulin receptor phosphorylation, possibly contributing to insulin resistance, was found when mice had mutant hyper-activated KRAS. Contrary to the original expectations, mice with combined mutations of AKT1 and KRAS may contribute to the accentuated diabetic phenotype by targeting two different points in the AKT and KRAS protein signaling pathways. The information can help understand the relationship between glucose metabolism, diabetes, and pancreatic cancer development. By thoroughly studying the interactions between targets in the AKT1/KRAS signaling pathways, key molecular events that induce metabolic changes and potentially early biomarkers may lead to an improved understanding of risk and/or detection of pancreatic cancer.

Thesis Completion




Thesis Chair/Advisor

Altomare, Deborah A.


Bachelor of Science (B.S.)


College of Medicine


Burnett School of Biomedical Sciences

Degree Program

Biomedical Science


Orlando (Main) Campus



Access Status

Open Access

Length of Campus-only Access

1 year

Release Date