The role of memory in non-genetic inheritance and its impact on cancer treatment resistance

Tyler Cassidy, Daniel Nichol, Mark Robertson-Tessi, Morgan Craig, Alexander R. A. Anderson, Dominik Wodarz
2021 PLoS Computational Biology  
Intra-tumour heterogeneity is a leading cause of treatment failure and disease progression in cancer. While genetic mutations have long been accepted as a primary mechanism of generating this heterogeneity, the role of phenotypic plasticity is becoming increasingly apparent as a driver of intra-tumour heterogeneity. Consequently, understanding the role of this plasticity in treatment resistance and failure is a key component of improving cancer therapy. We develop a mathematical model of
more » ... tic phenotype switching that tracks the evolution of drug-sensitive and drug-tolerant subpopulations to clarify the role of phenotype switching on population growth rates and tumour persistence. By including cytotoxic therapy in the model, we show that, depending on the strategy of the drug-tolerant subpopulation, stochastic phenotype switching can lead to either transient or permanent drug resistance. We study the role of phenotypic heterogeneity in a drug-resistant, genetically homogeneous population of non-small cell lung cancer cells to derive a rational treatment schedule that drives population extinction and avoids competitive release of the drug-tolerant sub-population. This model-informed therapeutic schedule results in increased treatment efficacy when compared against periodic therapy, and, most importantly, sustained tumour decay without the development of resistance.
doi:10.1371/journal.pcbi.1009348 pmid:34460809 pmcid:PMC8432806 fatcat:kx6yovmdx5byzbpy7r3h7hdsii