Intratumoral heterogeneity impacts both tumor progression and drug sensitivity. While intratumoral genetic heterogeneity has been extensively described, there is still little understanding of the extent of heterogeneity in drug sensitivity within a single tumor, the intra tumor dynamics of different cell populations during anti-cancer compound treatment, and the role of non-cell autonomous mechanism in drug resistance. The objective of this study is to characterize heterogeneity in drug sensitivity within a model for human breast cancer, identify interactions between clonal population influencing drug sensitivity, and use this to model the dynamics of sub populations in a tumor during anti-cancer compound treatment. We have characterized 31 subclonal cell populations (SCPs) that were generated by single cell cloning of the triple-negative breast cancer cell line MDA-MB-468. These SCPs display considerable phenotypic and molecular heterogeneity with respect to morphology, proliferation rate, RNA expression and tumorigenicity in mice. To examine the extent of heterogeneity in drug sensitivity, we designed and screened a 200-small molecule compound library in 24 SCPs and the parental cell line. We observed considerable heterogeneity in drug sensitivity and selected 36 compounds for validation in the SCPs that expressed the greatest range of sensitivity (determined by IC50). To investigate whether interactions between clonal population can influence drug sensitivity heterogeneously responsive subclonal cell lines were transduced with lentiviruses encoding for the H2B-GFP or H2B-RFP fusion protein and then cocultured in the absence or presence of different compounds. We observed shifts in drug sensitivity for SCPs that were cocultured with differentially responsive clones. Examples include SCPs 19 and 27 two highly sensitive populations that were protected by the presence of less sensitive SCPs when under gemcitabine treatment, resulting in IC50-values that were 20-fold higher then when cultured alone. RNA-sequencing and RPPA analysis will be used to characterize this non-cell autonomous mechanism of resistance and the relationship with identified transcriptional programs or genes which expression correlates with drug sensitivity. We are also generating and will evaluate predictive models for drug combination using the SCP drug sensitivity profiles. The results of this study show that there is considerable heterogeneity in drug sensitivity among clonal subpopulations derived from a single cancer cell line. Ongoing experiments will provide insight into the effect of drug combinations and unique treatment schedules on distinct tumor cell subpopulations and drug sensitivity within heterogenous mixtures. Moreover, we will be able to test for and investigate non-cell autonomous modes of drug resistance, which may guide the development of new drug combination treatments or schedules.

Citation Format: Chandler M Friend, Joan S Brugge, Hendrik J Kuiken, Steven M Corsello, Christopher C Mader. Characterization of intratumoral heterogeneity in drug sensitivity and non-cell autonomous mechanisms of drug resistance using subclonal cell populations derived from a single breast cancer cell line [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the AACR-NCI-EORTC International Conference on Molecular Targets and Cancer Therapeutics; 2019 Oct 26-30; Boston, MA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Mol Cancer Ther 2019;18(12 Suppl):Abstract nr A132. doi:10.1158/1535-7163.TARG-19-A132