Cooperative adaptation to therapy (CAT) confers resistance in heterogeneous non-small cell lung cancer

Morgan Craig, Kamran Kaveh, Alec Woosley, Andrew S. Brown, David Goldman, Elliot Eton, Ravindra M. Mehta, Andrew Dhawan, Kazuya Arai, M. Mamunur Rahman, Sidi Chen, Martin A. Nowak (+2 others)
2019 PLoS Computational Biology  
Understanding intrinsic and acquired resistance is crucial to overcoming cancer chemotherapy failure. While it is well-established that intratumor, subclonal genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity significantly contribute to resistance, it is not fully understood how tumor sub-clones interact with each other to withstand therapy pressure. Here, we report a previously unrecognized behavior in heterogeneous tumors: cooperative adaptation to therapy (CAT), in which cancer cells induce co-resistant
more » ... enotypes in neighboring cancer cells when exposed to cancer therapy. Using a CRISPR/Cas9 toolkit we engineered phenotypically diverse non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) cells by conferring mutations in Dicer1, a type III cytoplasmic endoribonuclease involved in small non-coding RNA genesis. We monitored three-dimensional growth dynamics of fluorescently-labeled mutant and/or wild-type cells individually or in co-culture using a substrate-free NanoCulture system under unstimulated or drug pressure conditions. By integrating mathematical modeling with flow cytometry, we characterized the growth patterns of mono- and co-cultures using a mathematical model of intra- and interspecies competition. Leveraging the flow cytometry data, we estimated the model's parameters to reveal that the combination of WT and mutants in co-cultures allowed for beneficial growth in previously drug sensitive cells despite drug pressure via induction of cell state transitions described by a cooperative game theoretic change in the fitness values. Finally, we used an ex vivo human tumor model that predicts clinical response through drug sensitivity analyses and determined that cellular and morphologic heterogeneity correlates to prognostic failure of multiple clinically-approved and off-label drugs in individual NSCLC patient samples. Together, these findings present a new paradox in drug resistance implicating non-genetic cooperation among tumor cells to thwart drug pressure, suggesting that profiling for druggable targets (i.e. mutations) alone may be insufficient to assign effective therapy.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1007278 pmid:31449515 pmcid:PMC6709889 fatcat:3btkgpyngzgw5bfzzbwq6zh6te