Subtypes in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma based on niche factor dependency show distinct drug treatment responses

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Background: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is characterized by abundant stroma in which microenvironmental (niche) factors promote PDAC progression. In mouse models, reduction of the stroma increased the proportion of poorly differentiated PDAC with a worse prognosis. Here, we aimed to clarify the effects of stroma on PDAC that may define the PDAC phenotype and induce distinct therapeutic responses. Methods: The molecular features of PDAC based on differentiation grade were clarified by genome and transcriptome analysis using PDAC organoids (PDOs). We identified the dependency on niche factors that might regulate the differentiation grade. A three-dimensional co-culture model with cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) was generated to determine whether CAFs provide niche factors essential for differentiated PDAC. PDOs were subtyped based on niche factor dependency, and the therapeutic responses for each subtype were compared. Results: The expression profiles of PDOs differed depending on the differentiation grade. Consistent with the distinct profiles, well differentiated types showed high niche dependency, while poorly differentiated types showed low niche dependency. The three-dimensional co-culture model revealed that well differentiated PDOs were strongly dependent on CAFs for growth, and moderately differentiated PDOs showed plasticity to change morphology depending on CAFs. Differentiated PDOs upregulated the expression of mevalonate pathway-related genes correlated with the niche dependency and were more sensitive to simvastatin than poorly differentiated PDOs. Conclusions: Our findings suggest that CAFs maintain the differentiated PDAC phenotype through secreting niche factors and induce distinct drug responses. These results may lead to the development of novel subtype-based therapeutic strategies.

Original languageEnglish
Article number89
JournalJournal of Experimental and Clinical Cancer Research
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - Dec 2022

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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