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Evolution of an intratumoral ecology susceptible to successive treatment in breast cancer xenografts

By Hyunsoo Kim, Pooja Kumar, Francesca Menghi, Javad Noorbakhsh, Eliza Cerveira, Mallory Ryan, Qihui Zhu, Guruprasad Ananda, Joshy George, Henry C. Chen, Susan Mockus, Chengsheng Zhang, Yan Yang, James Keck, R. Krishna Murthy Karuturi, Carol J Bult, Charles Lee, Edison T. Liu, Jeffrey H. Chuang

Posted 18 Jan 2018
bioRxiv DOI: 10.1101/249797

The processes by which tumors evolve are essential to the efficacy of treatment, but quantitative understanding of intratumoral dynamics has been limited. Although intratumoral heterogeneity is common, quantification of evolution is difficult from clinical samples because treatment replicates cannot be performed and because matched serial samples are infrequently available. To circumvent these problems we derived and assayed large sets of human triple-negative breast cancer xenografts and cell cultures from two patients, including 86 xenografts from cyclophosphamide, doxorubicin, cisplatin, docetaxel, or vehicle treatment cohorts as well as 45 related cell cultures. We assayed these samples via exome-seq and/or high-resolution droplet digital PCR, allowing us to distinguish complex therapy-induced selection and drift processes among endogenous cancer subclones with cellularity uncertainty <3%. For one patient, we discovered two predominant subclones that were granularly intermixed in all 48 co-derived xenograft samples. These two subclones exhibited differential chemotherapy sensitivity -- when xenografts were treated with cisplatin for 3 weeks, the post-treatment volume change was proportional to the post-treatment ratio of subclones on a xenograft-to-xenograft basis. A subsequent cohort in which xenografts were treated with cisplatin, allowed a drug holiday, then treated a second time continued to exhibit this proportionality. In contrast, xenografts from other treatment cohorts, spatially dissected xenograft fragments, and cell cultures evolved unsystematically but with substantial population bottlenecks. These results show that ecologies susceptible to successive retreatment can arise spontaneously in breast cancer in spite of a background of irregular subclonal bottlenecks, and our work provides to our knowledge the first quantification of the population genetics of such a system. Intriguingly, in such an ecology the ratio of common subclones is predictive of the state of treatment susceptibility, suggesting that this ratio can be measured to optimize dynamic treatment protocols in patients.

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