The impact of neoadjuvant chemotherapy on tumor cells is largely unknown with resistance to therapy remaining a significant challenge. We analyzed 171 chemo-naïve and post-chemotherapy resected patient samples (chemoradiotherapy excluded) using RNAseq and multiplexed immunofluorescence. Neoadjuvant chemotherapy enriched for distinct neoplastic persister phenotypes expressing Classical and Basal-like biomarkers GATA6 and KRT17. The enrichment of GATA6HiClassical-like and KRT17Hi Basal-like cells in post-chemotherapy patient samples was associated with poor survival after mFOLFIRINOX, but not gemcitabine. CYP3A subfamily enzymes (CYP3A4 and CYP3A5) were expressed in GATA6Hi and KRT17Hi persister cells and can degrade mFOLFIRINOX constituent irinotecan. Taken together these data support a model in which pre-existing subpopulations of GATA6Hi (Classical) and/or KRT17Hi (Basal) neoplastic cells emerge after mFOLFIRINOX treatment by expressing CYP3A. The identification of CYP3A-enabled persister cell phenotypes is an important step in the design of effective therapies to overcome drug-tolerance and prevent recurrence after neoadjuvant therapy.

Citation Format: Xu Zhou, Roma Kurilov, John P. Neoptolemos, Benedikt Brors, Kai Hu, Teresa Peccerella, Jing-Yu An, Stephanie Roessler, Katrin Pfütze, Angela Schulz, Stephan Wolf, Nicolas Hohmann, Ulrike Heger, Oliver Strobel, Simon T Barry, Christoph Springfeld, Christine Tjaden, Frank Bergmann, Markus Büchler, Thilo Hackert, Franco Fortunato, Peter Bailey. Persister cell phenotypes contribute to poor patient outcomes after neoadjuvant chemotherapy in PDAC [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Pancreatic Cancer; 2022 Sep 13-16; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2022;82(22 Suppl):Abstract nr A010.