In recent years, improvements in diagnosis and treatment have extended the lives of many patients with triple negative breast cancer, but resistance to treatment remains a major clinical and scientific challenge. While standard-of-care treatment and chemotherapy is effective in many TNBC patients, approximately 40% of patients display resistance, leading to poor overall survival. TNBC are characterized by significant intratumor heterogeneity, which further complicates treatment. Mechanisms of chemoresistance in TNBC patients remain poorly understood, in part due to a lack of available methods and models to measure intratumor heterogeneity and track changes in heterogeneous tumor compositions over time. Here we propose to use a new technology to track individual cells and clones as they respond to different chemotherapeutic agents; this more detailed information about the tumor cell population will be used to build mathematical models better predict and optimize therapeutic response. We first measure individual cell gene expression changes in response to treatment and then assemble these measurements into cell subpopulation trajectories, taking advantage of a barcoding technology developed in our lab to quantify clonally-resolved single cell transcriptomes.
These Aim 1 studies will build a compendium of gene expression, cell growth and survival data that describes how each of the heterogeneous cells in major experimental models of subtypes of triple negative breast cancer responds to clinically-relevant therapeutic agents. The new ability to layer clonal identifier information on single cell gene expression data reveals the detailed trajectories of individual cells that escape therapy. It also distinguishes subpopulations with pre-existing treatment resistance from those in which a resistant state is induced. At a higher conceptual level, this proposal seeks to also address a broad practical challenge: the high-dimensional ?omics? data collected in many large-scale efforts points often points to correlations in disease progression but not been informative for building mechanistic models to aid in the predictive of tumor response. Often, other types of data are more readily available-- lower dimensional data with more frequent measurements. We therefore next ask: How can these distinct data types be integrated into a useful framework to build predictive models of tumor cell response to therapy? This seems a fitting goal for the systems biology of cancer community. We propose to tackle this challenge with our barcode tracking technology; relative fractions of sensitive and resistance phenotypes, along with separate longitudinal measurements of cell number (low dimension data), become the inputs for a mechanistic model to predict therapeutic response and resistance (Aim 2).
In Aim 3, we will perform trajectory-mapping and model testing using patient-derived triple negative breast cancer cells, towards understanding the potential for translational utility. By integrating different data types into a cohesive framework, we aim to describe how sensitive and resistant subpopulations in TNBC grow, die, and transition in response to treatment.

Public Health Relevance

Treatment of cancer is complicated by intratumor variation, in which individual cells and groups of cells within a single tumor respond differently to therapeutic agents. The high degree of intratumor heterogeneity in triple-negative breast cancers confounds treatment efforts. Here we develop a linked set of experiment-computational workflows to measure, track, and predict the behavior of heterogeneous triple-negative breast cancer cells.

National Institute of Health (NIH)
National Cancer Institute (NCI)
Research Project--Cooperative Agreements (U01)
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Special Emphasis Panel (ZCA1)
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Hughes, Shannon K
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University of Texas Austin
Biomedical Engineering
Biomed Engr/Col Engr/Engr Sta
United States
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