Molecular profiling and specific targeting of gemcitabine-resistant subclones in heterogeneous pancreatic cancer cell populations

Benedikt Färber, Olga Lapshyna, Axel Künstner, Michael Kohl, Thorben Sauer, Kira Bichmann, Benjamin Heckelmann, Jessica Watzelt, Kim Honselmann, Louisa Bolm, Meike ten Winkel, Hauke Busch, Hendrik Ungefroren, Tobias Keck, Timo Gemoll, Ulrich F. Wellner, Rüdiger Braun*

*Korrespondierende/r Autor/-in für diese Arbeit


Purpose: Chemotherapy is pivotal in the multimodal treatment of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC). Technical advances unveiled a high degree of inter- and intratumoral heterogeneity. We hypothesized that intratumoral heterogeneity (ITH) impacts response to gemcitabine treatment and demands specific targeting of resistant subclones. Methods: Using single cell-derived cell lines (SCDCLs) from the classical cell line BxPC3 and the basal-like cell line Panc-1, we addressed the effect of ITH on response to gemcitabine treatment. Results: Individual SCDCLs of both parental tumor cell populations showed considerable heterogeneity in response to gemcitabine. Unsupervised PCA including the 1,000 most variably expressed genes showed a clustering of the SCDCLs according to their respective sensitivity to gemcitabine treatment for BxPC3, while this was less clear for Panc-1. In BxPC3 SCDCLs, enriched signaling pathways EMT, TNF signaling via NfKB, and IL2STAT5 signaling correlated with more resistant behavior to gemcitabine. In Panc-1 SCDCLs MYC targets V1 and V2 as well as E2F targets were associated with stronger resistance. We used recursive feature elimination for Feature Selection in order to compute sets of proteins that showed strong association with the response to gemcitabine. The optimal protein set calculated for Panc-1 comprised fewer proteins in comparison to the protein set determined for BxPC3. Based on molecular profiles, we could show that the gemcitabine-resistant SCDCLs of both BxPC3 and Panc-1 are more sensitive to the BET inhibitor JQ1 compared to the respective gemcitabine-sensitive SCDCLs. Conclusion: Our model system of SCDCLs identified gemcitabine-resistant subclones and provides evidence for the critical role of ITH for treatment response in PDAC. We exploited molecular differences as the basis for differential response and used these for more targeted therapy of resistant subclones.

ZeitschriftFrontiers in Oncology
PublikationsstatusVeröffentlicht - 2023

Strategische Forschungsbereiche und Zentren

  • Profilbereich: Lübeck Integrated Oncology Network (LION)
  • Zentren: Universitäres Cancer Center Schleswig-Holstein (UCCSH)


  • 205-14 Hämatologie, Onkologie