New study can help eliminate treatment resistance in breast cancer

People would have probably heard the ancient adage, “It takes a village to raise a child.”

New study can help eliminate treatment resistance in breast cancer
Breast cancer cells. Image Credit: Courtesy of the National Cancer Institute.

Now, according to Syn Yeo, PhD, a research instructor from the department of cancer biology at the College of Medicine of the University of Cincinnati, the same adage applies to cells and the development of cancer, especially breast cancer.

Yeo, who is also the study’s co-lead author, stated in his current research work that cells in different “life stages” or forms can lead to growth and spread of cancer. The study has been published in the eLife journal.

Our recent findings emphasize the need to account for the specific cell states that are present within a tumor. This could potentially help determine the combination of drugs that are required to eliminate all the cell states that are present to eliminate treatment resistance.”

Syn Yeo, PhD, Study Co-Lead Author and Research Instructor, Department of Cancer Biology, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati

Yeo is also a member in the laboratory of Jun-Lin Guan, PhD, the Francis Brunning Endowed Chair, and a professor of cancer biology.

Yeo added that when it comes to breast cancers, cells inside a tumor are known to be diverse.

This diversity poses a problem to treating patients because particular subsets of tumor cells may be drug resistant and eventually lead to disease recurrence.”

Syn Yeo, PhD, Study Co-lead Author and Research Instructor, Department of Cancer Biology, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati

Yeo continued, “One of the factors contributing to this diversity is the fact that tumor cells can exist in different cellular states, ranging from more stem-like cells that can become other cell types to more differentiated cells that have been coded to serve a purpose, or do a certain ‘job’ within the system.”

Cancer cells with stem-like properties are known to cause drug resistance, and they are generally seen as being at the top of the tumor hierarchy, like the king or queen of the village, with more differentiated tumor cells towards the bottom of the hierarchy, like the common townspeople.”

Syn Yeo, PhD, Study Co-Lead Author and Research Instructor, Department of Cancer Biology, College of Medicine, University of Cincinnati

Yeo added that scientists employed breast cancer animal models in the latest study to establish the hierarchies of tumors beyond “common people” and “ruler” cells. The team detected and classified single cells which allowed them to interpret the purpose of every single cell. Yeo further added that the analysis of bulk tumor cells would have concealed the cellular details.

Yeo continued, “We were able to find a complex spectrum of cell states between different tumor types that can range from stem-cells to the ‘beginner cells’ to more differentiated cells. In our village [scenario], these would be the governors and mayors, followed by the common townspeople. Furthermore, depending on the lineage of the tumor, some may show a spectrum of cell states that are higher up in the hierarchy and vice versa.”

These findings are important because they show we need to know more about how these specific cell states contribute to tumor growth so we can target them with combination drug therapies, potentially helping more people who may otherwise experience drug resistance,” Yeo concluded.

Source:
Journal reference:

Yeo, S. K., et al. (2020) Single-cell RNA-sequencing reveals distinct patterns of cell state heterogeneity in mouse models of breast cancer. eLife. doi.org/10.7554/eLife.58810.

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