Tumor heterogeneity in high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC) stems from highly variable copy number changes that lack shared actionable drug targets and contribute to inevitable recurrence and death. To unveil the vast heterogeneity in HGSOC, and understand the molecular changes that occur during chemotherapy, we analyzed single-cell transcriptomes of 49 dissociated HGSOC tumor or ascites specimens, along with six normal postmenopausal fimbria/tuba specimens as controls. This set contains 13 pairs of samples from patients who underwent neoadjuvant chemotherapy, taken before treatment (primary), and after three cycles of standard carboplatin-paclitaxel chemotherapy (interval). Clustering single-cell transcriptomes based on acknowledged cell type markers revealed epithelial cancer cells, as well as diverse stromal and immune cell types. The cell type proportions displayed high variability across HGSOC tumors, intriguingly with lowest tumor purity in patients with short platinum-free interval. To identify the impact of chemotherapy on transcriptional programs, we extracted shared transcriptomic differences in the cancer cells of seven primary-interval pairs. Regardless of the clinical response, three cycles of chemotherapy induced an oxidative stress response program that inhibits apoptosis, while inducing genes involved in MHC II antigen presentation to T helper cells. Next, to study how cell states change during chemotherapy, we ordered the cells in pseudotime based on their transcriptomic similarity, revealing a mixture of primary and interval cells in all but two primary-interval pairs. Furthermore, based on inferred copy number analysis, we estimate that genomic differences contribute variably, between <1% to >20%, to the overall transcriptomic differences between the primary and interval pairs. These results suggest that pre- and post-chemotherapy states are not completely separate and that genomic evolution has a highly variable effect on the state differences, providing support for an intrinsic chemoresistance model with genomic and nongenomic components. To further the understanding of intrinsic resistance, we next focused on patients’ clinical response mechanisms in HGSOC cancer cells. Genes encoding well-known serum markers of HGSOC, WFDC2 and MUC16, were expressed at higher levels in primary specimens of patients with incomplete response, whereas patients with complete response displayed higher expression of genes related to chromatin repression/heterochromatin. Finally, we focused on tumor resectability to understand the transcriptomic patterns underlying HGSOC metastasis. Already prior to chemotherapy, patients with residual disease showed induced FOXO3-driven regulon linked to quiescence, stress resistance, and stemness, whereas patients with no residual disease express increased level of E2F1/DP1-driven regulon linked to BRCAness, high proliferation, and high metabolic rate.
Citation Format: Erdogan Pekcan Erkan, Jun Dai, Kaiyang Zhang, Katja Kaipio, Tarja Lamminen, Naziha Mansuri, Lasse Suominen, Amjad Alkodsi, Kaisa Huhtinen, Sakari Hietanen, Johanna Hynninen, Seija Grénman, Olli Carpén, Sampsa Hautaniemi, Anna Vähärautio. Singling out tumor heterogeneity and chemoresistance in high-grade serous ovarian cancer [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR Special Conference on Advances in Ovarian Cancer Research; 2019 Sep 13-16, 2019; Atlanta, GA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Clin Cancer Res 2020;26(13_Suppl):Abstract nr A40.