Intraductal Transplantation Models of Human Pancreatic Ductal Adenocarcinoma Reveal Progressive Transition of Molecular Subtypes

Cancer Discov. 2020 Oct;10(10):1566-1589. doi: 10.1158/2159-8290.CD-20-0133. Epub 2020 Jul 23.


Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is the most lethal common malignancy, with little improvement in patient outcomes over the past decades. Recently, subtypes of pancreatic cancer with different prognoses have been elaborated; however, the inability to model these subtypes has precluded mechanistic investigation of their origins. Here, we present a xenotransplantation model of PDAC in which neoplasms originate from patient-derived organoids injected directly into murine pancreatic ducts. Our model enables distinction of the two main PDAC subtypes: intraepithelial neoplasms from this model progress in an indolent or invasive manner representing the classical or basal-like subtypes of PDAC, respectively. Parameters that influence PDAC subtype specification in this intraductal model include cell plasticity and hyperactivation of the RAS pathway. Finally, through intratumoral dissection and the direct manipulation of RAS gene dosage, we identify a suite of RAS-regulated secreted and membrane-bound proteins that may represent potential candidates for therapeutic intervention in patients with PDAC. SIGNIFICANCE: Accurate modeling of the molecular subtypes of pancreatic cancer is crucial to facilitate the generation of effective therapies. We report the development of an intraductal organoid transplantation model of pancreatic cancer that models the progressive switching of subtypes, and identify stochastic and RAS-driven mechanisms that determine subtype specification.See related commentary by Pickering and Morton, p. 1448.This article is highlighted in the In This Issue feature, p. 1426.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenocarcinoma / genetics*
  • Animals
  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Pancreatic Ducts / transplantation*
  • Prognosis