Aw Yong KM, Ulintz PJ, Caceres S, Cheng X, Bao L, Wu Z, Jiagge EM, and Merajver SD. Heterogeneity at the invasion front of triple negative breast cancer cells. Sci Rep 2020; 10(1):5781.
Identifying better predictive and prognostic biomarkers for the diagnosis and treatment of triple negative breast cancer (TNBC) is complicated by tumor heterogeneity ranging from responses to therapy, mutational burden, and clonal evolution. To overcome the gap in our understanding of tumor heterogeneity, we hypothesized that isolating and studying the gene expression profile of invasive tumor cell subpopulations would be a crucial step towards achieving this goal. In this report, we utilized a fluidic device previously reported to be capable of supporting long-term three-dimensional growth and invasion dynamics of cancer cells. Live invading and matched non-invading SUM149 inflammatory breast cancer cells were enriched using this device and these two functionally distinct subpopulations were tested for differences in gene expression using a gene expression microarray. 305 target genes were identified to have altered expression in the invading cells compared to the non-invading tumoroid cells. Gene ontology analysis of the gene panel identified multiple biological roles ranging from extracellular matrix reorganization to modulation of the immune response and Rho signaling. Interestingly, the genes associated with the invasion front differ between different samples, consistent with inter- and intra-tumor heterogeneity. This work suggests the impact of heterogeneity in biomarker discovery should be considered as cancer therapy increasingly heads towards a personalized approach.