Neoadjuvant chemotherapy is associated with an altered metabolic profile and increased cancer stemness in patients with pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Mol Oncol. 2023 Jan;17(1):59-81. doi: 10.1002/1878-0261.13344. Epub 2022 Dec 5.


The modest clinical benefits of neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAT) in pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) are associated with a lack of robust data on treatment-induced changes in the tumor. To this end, comparative proteomic profiling of tumor tissue samples from treatment-naïve (TN, n = 20) and NAT-treated (n = 22) PDACs was performed. Differentially expressed proteins were identified and correlation with overall survival (OS) was performed. Tumors were also examined for histopathological changes and expression of cancer stem cell (CSC) markers. Serum from 33 matched patients was analyzed for metabolic markers. Cytotoxicity, proliferation, and expression of CSC markers were assessed in chemoresistant Panc-1 and Mia PaCa-2 cells. Of the 2265 proteins identified, 227 and 144 proteins showed significantly altered expression and differential phosphorylation, respectively, in NAT compared with TN samples. The majority of these were metabolism-related proteins, and 14 of these correlated moderately with OS. NAT-treated tumors and chemoresistant cancer cells showed increased expression of CSC markers. Serum ALDH1A1 was higher in NAT compared with TN. Differentially phosphorylated proteins were mainly involved in cytoskeleton organization, cell locomotion, motility, and migration, and 17 of these showed a strong positive correlation with OS. This study provides evidence of the effects of NAT on PDAC metabolism at both the tumor and the systemic levels. NAT-treated tumors showed significantly lower expression of metabolic proteins, and patients who underwent NAT showed reduced serum lactate and high-density lipoprotein-cholesterol. Lastly, cancer cells that survived cytotoxic treatment expressed higher CSC markers, both in vivo and in vitro.

Keywords: cancer stem cells; metabolism; neoadjuvant chemotherapy; pancreatic cancer; proteomics.

MeSH terms

  • Carcinoma, Pancreatic Ductal* / pathology
  • Humans
  • Metabolome
  • Neoadjuvant Therapy
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Proteomics
  • Retrospective Studies

Supplementary concepts

  • Pancreatic Carcinoma