Defining therapeutic sensitivity of single cancer cells by measuring cell mass

Approaches to functionally measure cell response to cancer therapies could greatly aid drug selection for individual patients. However, no functional assays are currently implemented clinically, and predictive genetic biomarkers are only available for a small fraction of cancer therapies.

Through a close collaboration with the laboratory of Scott Manalis at the Koch Institute, we have demonstrated that single-cell mass accumulation rate (MAR), when profiled over a period of hours, can accurately define drug sensitivity of leukemia cells. MAR reveals heterogeneity both across individual tumors and, for the first time, within individual tumors and tumor-derived cell lines.

Importantly, MAR predicts sensitivity or resistance to therapy using samples as small as 25 μL of peripheral blood, while maintaining cell viability and compatibility with downstream characterization. These unique capabilities of MAR measurements establish it as a promising ex vivo approach for directly assaying single-cell therapeutic response and identifying cellular subpopulations with phenotypic resistance within heterogeneous tumors.