High-resolution deconstruction of evolution induced by chemotherapy treatments in breast cancer xenografts

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

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

10 Scopus citations


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 in diverse ways but with substantial population bottlenecks. These results show that ecosystems 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 ecosystem the ratio of common subclones is predictive of the state of treatment susceptibility, showing how measurements of subclonal heterogeneity could guide treatment for some patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number17937
JournalScientific reports
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 1 2018
Externally publishedYes

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© 2018, The Author(s).


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