Introduction: Preclinical models recently unveiled the vulnerability of LKB1/KRAS comutated NSCLC to metabolic stress-based treatments. Because miR-17 is a potential epigenetic regulator of LKB1, we hypothesized that wild-type LKB1 (LKB1WT) NSCLC with high miR-17 expression may be sensitive to an energetic stress condition, and eligible for metabolic frailties-based therapeutic intervention. Methods: We took advantage of NSCLC cell lines with different combinations of KRAS mutation and LKB1 deletion and of patient-derived xenografts (PDXs) with high (LKB1WT/miR-17 high) or low (LKB1WT/miR-17 low) miR-17 expression. We evaluated LKB1 pathway impairment and apoptotic response to metformin. We retrospectively evaluated LKB1 and miR-17 expression levels in tissue specimens of patients with NSCLC and PDXs. In addition, a lung cancer series from The Cancer Genome Atlas data set was analyzed for miR-17 expression and potential correlation with clinical features. Results: We identified miR-17 as an epigenetic regulator of LKB1 in NSCLC and confirmed targeting of miR-17 to LKB1 3′ untranslated region by luciferase reporter assay. We found that miR-17 overexpression functionally impairs the LKB1/AMPK pathway. Metformin treatment prompted apoptosis on miR-17 overexpression only in LKB1WT cell lines, and in LKB1WT/miR-17 high PDXs. A retrospective analysis in patients with NSCLC revealed an inverse correlation between miR-17 and LKB1 expression and highlighted a prognostic role of miR-17 expression in LKB1WT patients, which was further confirmed by The Cancer Genome Atlas data analysis. Conclusions: We identified miR-17 as a mediator of LKB1 expression in NSCLC tumors. This study proposes a miR-17 expression score potentially exploitable to discriminate LKB1WT patients with NSCLC with impaired LKB1 expression and poor outcome, eligible for energy-stress-based treatments.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)1298-1311
Number of pages14
JournalJournal of Thoracic Oncology
Issue number8
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021


  • LKB1
  • Lung cancer
  • Metformin
  • miR-17

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pulmonary and Respiratory Medicine


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