Deanna Csomo McCool | September 29, 2019
Using a new technique that can identify genetic profiles of individual cells, University of Notre Dame researchers modeled a breast cancer tumor’s potential resistance to a drug, and then identified a drug combination that reversed that resistance.
Siyuan Zhang, the Dee Associate Professor of Biological Sciences at Notre Dame, and his team used a new profiling process to make the discovery, published in Nature Communications.
“The new technology allows us to do sequencing on each individual cell,” Zhang said, adding that his lab worked with Notre Dame’s Genomics and Bioinformatics Core Facility to apply the new technology, called high-throughput single-cell profiling, on campus.
Until recently, finding patterns of gene expression for cancer tissue has been performed using whole tumor tissue, a process called bulk sequencing. Unfortunately, cancer cells are embedded in a matrix of other cells, making it difficult to distinguish the true signatures of individual cells. The new single-cell profiling technique makes the task of discerning the nature of each cell possible.
In this study, researchers observed how a particular new drug works for shrinking tumors in an aggressive type of cancer, HER2-positive breast cancer. The drug, called a CDK 4/6 inhibitor — used to block a specific type of enzyme — works rapidly. But most drugs start out working well, before the tumor eventually changes and becomes resistant to the treatment. Researchers then look at the resistant tumors and start to develop new drugs to overcome resistance, but by then it’s too late. “By the time we find a new drug, the tumor has shifted into something different,” said Zhang.
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