Introduction: Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma (PDAC) is highly aggressive and has poor prognosis. There are few biomarkers to inform treatment decisions, and collecting tumour samples for testing is challenging. Methods: Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from patients with PDAC liquid biopsies were expanded ex vivo to form CTC-derived organoid cultures, using a laboratory-developed biomimetic cell culture system. CTC-derived organoids were tested for sensitivity to a PDAC panel of nine drugs, with tests conducted in triplicate, and a weighted cytotoxicity score (CTS) was calculated from the results. Clinical response to treatment in patients was evaluated using Response Evaluation Criteria in Solid Tumours (RECIST) version 1.1 criteria at the time of blood sampling and 3 months later. The correlation between CTS and clinical response was then assessed. Results: A total of 41 liquid biopsies (87.8% from patients with Stage 4 disease) were collected from 31 patients. The CTC-derived organoid expansion was achieved in 3 weeks, with 87.8% culture efficiency. CTC-derived organoid cultures were positive for EpCAM staining and negative for CD45 staining in the surface marker analysis. All patients had received a median of two lines of treatment prior to enrolment and prospective utility analysis indicated significant correlation of CTS with clinical treatment response. Two representative case studies are also presented to illustrate the relevant clinical contexts. Conclusions: CTCs were expanded from patients with PDAC liquid biopsies with a high success rate. Drug sensitivity profiles from CTC-derived organoid cultures correlated meaningfully with treatment response. Further studies are warranted to validate the predictive potential for this approach.
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