Therapy-associated remodeling of pancreatic cancer revealed by single-cell spatial transcriptomics and optimal transport analysis

bioRxiv [Preprint]. 2023 Jun 29:2023.06.28.546848. doi: 10.1101/2023.06.28.546848.


In combination with cell intrinsic properties, interactions in the tumor microenvironment modulate therapeutic response. We leveraged high-plex single-cell spatial transcriptomics to dissect the remodeling of multicellular neighborhoods and cell-cell interactions in human pancreatic cancer associated with specific malignant subtypes and neoadjuvant chemotherapy/radiotherapy. We developed Spatially Constrained Optimal Transport Interaction Analysis (SCOTIA), an optimal transport model with a cost function that includes both spatial distance and ligand-receptor gene expression. Our results uncovered a marked change in ligand-receptor interactions between cancer-associated fibroblasts and malignant cells in response to treatment, which was supported by orthogonal datasets, including an ex vivo tumoroid co-culture system. Overall, this study demonstrates that characterization of the tumor microenvironment using high-plex single-cell spatial transcriptomics allows for identification of molecular interactions that may play a role in the emergence of chemoresistance and establishes a translational spatial biology paradigm that can be broadly applied to other malignancies, diseases, and treatments.

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  • Preprint