Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is one of the most incurable types of cancer. Cancer that develops in the acinar cells of the pancreas is typically not diagnosed until later stages, such as stage 3 or 4. As such, this form of cancer is particularly lethal with only 9% of patients reaching 5-year survival. PDAC is known to have a particularly dense extracellular matrix composed of fibroblasts, which have been previously shown to play an important role in promoting resistance to drug therapy. Characterization of the stromal networks involved in PDAC tumor development as well as protein markers of fibroblast subpopulations within the tumor stroma are critical to developing new fibroblast-targeted therapeutic approaches as well as understanding key signaling molecules that ultimately promote tumor progression and drug resistance. Single-cell RNA sequencing (scRNAseq) was utilized to analyze cancer-associated fibroblasts (CAFs) from KPC mouse-derived, MT3 subcutaneous murine allografts along with two fibroblast lines derived from human PDAC tumors: CRC-811 and IA-1340. Single cell gene expression profiling and subsequent analysis of MT3-derived CAFs resulted in the identification of three CAF subpopulations including a myofibroblast subpopulation that expressed high levels of smooth muscle actin (Acta2), which was also observed in both human samples. Fibroblast subpopulations enriched in Acta2 expression, expressed high levels of Wnt5a along with several other secreted factors including Tgfb1, Tgfb2 and Ctgf. Wnt5a is a secreted protein that activates non-canonical Wnt signaling pathways and is known to regulate normal developmental processes, including proliferation, differentiation, migration, adhesion and polarity. However Wnt5a is not natively expressed in MT3 cancer cells derived from syngeneic tumors, but potentially in the stroma. We hypothesize it is exclusively derived from fibroblasts. Previously it has been shown that Wnt5a inhibition suppressed gastric cancer metastasis, therefore further validation of the role of myofibroblast-derived Wnt5a on PDAC disease progression is warranted. This study received funding by LDRD 19-SI-003. This work was conducted under the auspices of the USDOE by LLNL (DE-AC52-07NA27344). IM Release Number: LLNL-ABS-798442.

Citation Format: Kelly A. Martin, Aimy Sebastian, Nicholas R. Hum, Stephen Byers, Elizabeth K. Wheeler, Matthew A. Coleman, Gabriela G. Loots. Analysis of stromal myofibroblasts identifies secreted proteins that promote pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research 2020; 2020 Apr 27-28 and Jun 22-24. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2020;80(16 Suppl):Abstract nr 2757.