Stomatin-like Protein 2 Promotes Tumor Cell Survival by Activating the JAK2-STAT3-PIM1 Pathway, Suggesting a Novel Therapy in CRC

Despite intensive efforts, a considerable proportion of colorectal cancer (CRC) patients develop local recurrence and distant metastasis. Stomatin-like protein 2 (SLP-2), a member of the highly conserved stomatin superfamily, is upregulated across cancer types. However, the biological and functional roles of SLP-2 remain elusive in CRC. Here, we report that high SLP-2 expression was found in CRC tissues and was linked to tumor progression and tumor cell differentiation. Additionally, high SLP-2 expression correlated with poor overall survival (OS) in CRC patients (p < 0.001). SLP-2 knockout (SLP-2KO), generated by CRISPR/Cas9, reduced cell growth, migration, and invasion; induced apoptosis in CRC cells; and reduced tumor xenograft growth in vivo. A 181-compound library screening showed that SLP-2KO produced resistance to JAK2 inhibitors (NVP-BSK805 and TG-101348) and a PIM1 inhibitor (SGI-1776), revealing that the JAK2-STAT3-PIM1 oncogenic pathway was potentially controlled by SLP-2 in CRC. In vitro and in vivo, TG-101348 combined with SGI-1776 was synergistic in CRC (combination index [CI] < 1). Overall, our findings suggest that SLP-2 controls the JAK2-STAT3-PIM1 oncogenic pathway, offering a rationale for a novel therapeutic strategy with combined SGI-1776 and TG-101348 in CRC. Additionally, SLP-2 may be a prognostic marker and biomarker for sensitivity to JAK2 and PIM1 inhibitors.

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