Candidate diagnostic and prognostic markers for pancreatitis and pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma

Thomas M. Wilkie, Havish Kantheti

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Diagnostic markers are desperately needed for early detection of pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDA). We describe sets of markers expressed in temporal order in mouse models during pancreatitis, PDA initiation and progression. Cell type specificity of PDA marker expression was analyzed by interrogating quantitative dot plots of single cell (sc) RNAseq for 3021 candidate genes in tumor samples from a mouse model for PDA (KIC) at early and late stages of PDA progression compared to normal pancreas. Protein markers were identified by differential mass spectrometry (MS) of mouse tumors and conditioned media from human cancer cell lines. Additional candidate genes were identified from signaling pathways that drive PDA, including the Ras pathway, calcium signaling, and known cancer genes. Developmental progression of cancer was revealed in seven classes of PDA markers expressed in cancer cells and stroma. The earliest diagnostic markers (47 genes) were specifically expressed in epithelial cancer cells in early, but not late, PDA tumors. Other markers were first elevated in epithelial cancer cells of late stage tumors (288 genes), or in both epithelial and mesenchymal cells (740 genes), or only in mesenchymal cells (216 genes). Stromal markers were differentially expressed in early- and/or late-PDA neoplasia (594 genes). Pancreatitis is a risk factor for PDA in humans. Mouse models of pancreatitis, including caerulein treatment and acinar-specific homozygous deletion of differentiation transcription factors (dTFs), were screened for early expression of all PDA markers identified in KIC neoplasia. Select diagnostic markers were validated by immunohistochemistry in mouse and human samples of normal pancreas, early- and late-stage PDA. Prognostic markers from TCGA were identified that showed differential and cell type-specific expression in PDA. Here we present diagnostic and prognostic markers for disease progression from pancreatitis to late-stage PDA.

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Biotechnology
  • Biochemistry
  • Molecular Biology
  • Genetics


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