Uppsala University researchers have created a novel approach for tracking the evolution of cancer cells which in the long run, might make it even easier to build innovative, effective drug combinations.
A brain tumor is made up of a range of cancer cells with varied properties, some of which are similar to cell types found in a healthy brain. It has previously been difficult to analyze how this variety emerges. Its origin, on the other hand, has a significant impact on which drug development model can be used. If the cancer cells are structured hierarchically, attacking the cells at the top of the hierarchy is a good way to reduce the tumor. If the cell types are more flexibly structured, however, different treatment approaches are needed.
To figure out how different cell types are structured, researchers had to discover a way to track individual cells and associated offspring over time. They also need a method for quantitatively analyzing the results, which led to the formation of interdisciplinary collaboration. The Chalmers University of Technology-assisted in the development of the new approach. The researchers used a "barcoding" technique to profile individual cells, as well as mathematical modeling and computer simulations. The researchers demonstrated that the structure appears to be hierarchical, but with some flexibility, by using cancer cells from three patients with brain tumors.
There are also distinct patient-specific characteristics. They also proved that drug treatment affected cell structure. The active ingredient temozolomide, which is used to treat brain tumors as routine chemotherapy treatment, appears to direct cells away from the more invasive cell type. According to the proposed concept, temozolomide paired with a drug that targets that cell type particularly has to be an effective strategy to treat the tumor; the researchers believe this method has a lot of potentials. Their method can be used on many other forms of cancer where there are currently no effective treatment options, in addition to assisting in the development of therapies for brain tumors.