CDK12 and PAK2 as novel therapeutic targets for human gastric cancer

Hui Liu, Seung Ho Shin, Hanyong Chen, Tingting Liu, Zhi Li, Yamei Hu, Fangfang Liu, Chengjuan Zhang, Dong Joon Kim, Kangdong Liu, Zigang Dong

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

7 Scopus citations


Background: Gastric cancer remains the second leading cause of cancer-related death, and the third in mortality due to lack of effective therapeutic targets for late stage cancer patients. This study aims to identify potential druggable target biomarkers as potential therapeutic options for patients with gastric cancer. Methods: Immunohistochemistry of human gastric tumor tissues was conducted to determine the expression level of cyclin-dependent kinase 12 (CDK12). Multiple in vitro and in vivo assays such as RNAi, mass spectrometry, computer docking models, kinase assays, cell xenograft NU/NU mouse models (CDXs) and patient-derived xenograft NOD/SCID mouse models (PDXs) were conducted to study the function and molecular interaction of CDK12 with p21 activated kinase 2 (PAK2), as well as to find CDK12 inhibitors as potential treatment options for human gastric cancer. Results: Here we identified that CDK12 is a driver gene in human gastric cancer growth. Mechanistically, CDK12 directly binds to and phosphorylates PAK2 at T134/T169 to activate MAPK signaling pathway. We further identified FDA approved clinical drug procaterol can serve as an effective CDK12 inhibitor, leading to dramatic restriction of cancer cell proliferation and tumor growth in human gastric cancer cells and PDXs. Conclusions: Our data highlight the potential of CDK12/PAK2 as therapeutic targets for patients with gastric cancer, and we propose procaterol treatment as a novel therapeutic strategy for human gastric cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)6201-6215
Number of pages15
Issue number14
StatePublished - 2020

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
The study was supported by the People's Government of Henan Province.

Publisher Copyright:
© The author(s). This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License ( See for full terms and conditions.


  • CDK12
  • Gastric cancer
  • PAK2
  • Phosphorylation
  • Procaterol


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