Risk and outcome of acute promyelocytic leukemia (APL) are particularly worsened in obese-overweight individuals, but the underlying molecular mechanism is unknown. In established mouse APL models (Ctsg-PML::RARA), we confirmed that obesity induced by high-fat diet (HFD) enhances leukemogenesis by increasing penetrance and shortening latency, providing an ideal model to investigate obesity-induced molecular events in the preleukemic phase. Surprisingly, despite increasing DNA damage in hematopoietic stem cells (HSC), HFD only minimally increased mutational load, with no relevant impact on known cancer-driving genes. HFD expanded and enhanced self-renewal of hematopoietic progenitor cells (HPC), with concomitant reduction in long-term HSCs. Importantly, linoleic acid, abundant in HFD, fully recapitulates the effect of HFD on the self-renewal of PML::RARA HPCs through activation of peroxisome proliferator-activated receptor delta, a central regulator of fatty acid metabolism. Our findings inform dietary/pharmacologic interventions to counteract obesity-associated cancers and suggest that nongenetic factors play a key role.
Our work informs interventions aimed at counteracting the cancer-promoting effect of obesity. On the basis of our study, individuals with a history of chronic obesity may still significantly reduce their risk by switching to a healthier lifestyle, a concept supported by evidence in solid tumors but not yet in hematologic malignancies.