Inactivation of adenomatous polyposis coli (APC) is common across many cancer types and serves as a critical initiating event in most sporadic colorectal cancers. APC deficiency activates WNT signaling, which remains an elusive target for cancer therapy, prompting us to apply the synthetic essentiality framework to identify druggable vulnerabilities for APC-deficient cancers. Tryptophan 2,3-dioxygenase 2 (TDO2) was identified as a synthetic essential effector of APC-deficient colorectal cancer. Mechanistically, APC deficiency results in the TCF4/β-catenin–mediated upregulation of TDO2 gene transcription. TDO2 in turn activates the Kyn–AhR pathway, which increases glycolysis to drive anabolic cancer cell growth and CXCL5 secretion to recruit macrophages into the tumor microenvironment. Therapeutically, APC-deficient colorectal cancer models were susceptible to TDO2 depletion or pharmacologic inhibition, which impaired cancer cell proliferation and enhanced antitumor immune profiles. Thus, APC deficiency activates a TCF4–TDO2–AhR–CXCL5 circuit that affects multiple cancer hallmarks via autonomous and nonautonomous mechanisms and illuminates a genotype-specific vulnerability in colorectal cancer.
This study identifies critical effectors in the maintenance of APC-deficient colorectal cancer and demonstrates the relationship between APC/WNT pathway and kynurenine pathway signaling. It further determines the tumor-associated macrophage biology in APC-deficient colorectal cancer, informing genotype-specific therapeutic targets and the use of TDO2 inhibitors.