Background: Bladder cancer is among the top ten most common cancers, with about ~380,000 new cases and ~150,000 deaths per year worldwide. Platinum-based combination chemotherapy is commonly used to treat advanced bladder cancer. It has been shown that only ~50% of the patients with advanced bladder cancer respond to platinum-based therapy.

Methods: We have utilized a patient-derived bladder cancer xenograft (PDX) platform to characterize the molecular mechanisms that contribute to resistance of gemcitabine-cisplatin combination therapy in advanced bladder cancer. We have also identified key regulatory pathways in our PDX models that can be targeted to treat chemotherapy resistant bladder cancer using RNAseq analysis. Transcriptome profiling of P0 (passage 0) bladder cancer xenograft tumors from 4 PDX lines (2 gemcitabine-cisplatin resistant lines and 2 drug sensitive lines) was performed by RNA-Seq analysis, before and after a 21-day cisplatin/gemcitabine drug treatment regimen.

Results: The RNA-seq data has indicated significant differences between the transcriptional profiles of drug-sensitive and drug-resistant tumors. PDXs retained morphology and shared 92-97% of genetic alterations of parental cancer cells. We identified 333 genes >2 fold up or down regulated in the drug resistant tumors compared to the drug sensitive tumors. Significantly up-regulated genes in drug resistant tumors analyzed include metabolic enzymes ALDH2, ALDH3A1, ALDH4A1 and ALDH7A1, transporter proteins ABCA1, SLC1A4, SLC2A5, SLC30A1, SLC39A6, SLC7A5 and SLC9A3, Notch ligand JAG2, Growth hormone receptor GHR and transmembrane protein GPNMB. Consistent with the change of cell surface proteins such as GHR and GPNMB, the MAPK and the PI3K-AKT pathways were upregulated when PDXs became resistant to cisplatin treatment. Additional changes in gene expression based on RNA-seq data before and after drug treatment were also found.

Conclusion: Chemoresistance to gemcitabine and cisplatin is associated with altered expression of several cell surface proteins and upregulation of the downstream signaling pathways. Targeting these cell surface proteins can possibly be harnessed to overcome chemoresistance. GPNMB is a type I transmembrane protein that has previously been shown to be up-regulated in many metastatic cancers including breast cancer. Potentially targeting GPNMB with glembatumumab vedotin, an antibody-drug-conjugate has shown promising results in treating several cancers including breast cancer and osteosarcoma. Further studies will elucidate whether targeting GPNMB is an effective strategy for the treatment of chemotherapy resistant bladder cancer.

This study received funding by a developmental grant from the UCDCC. This work was conducted under the auspices of the USDOE by LLNL (DE-AC52-07NA27344). IM number: LLNL-688318

Citation Format: Kelly A. Martin, Nicholas R. Hum, Aimy Sebastian, Deepa K. Murugesh, Chong-Xian Pan, Ai-Hong Ma, Ralph de Vere White, Gaby Loots. RNA sequencing of bladder cancer patient-derived xenograft models identifies genes associated with chemoresistance [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the American Association for Cancer Research Annual Meeting 2017; 2017 Apr 1-5; Washington, DC. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2017;77(13 Suppl):Abstract nr 97. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2017-97