Martin Enge’s research group at the Department of Oncology-Pathology has developed a new method for joint analysis of a cell’s state and accumulated genetic variation in single cells, applied to childhood leukaemias and other cancers. The article is published in the journal Molecular Cell.
The method enables studies of how these genetic changes alter transcription, and thereby a cell’s function. The study shows that it is technically feasible and cost-efficient to do such analyses in thousands of single cells, including cells from biobank material routinely sampled from children with leukaemia.
We know today that in most cancers, every malignant cell in a tumour is not identical. An individual’s leukaemia or tumour is often composed of many subgroups of cells or clones, that may differ slightly in important ways and affect response to treatment.
Conventional molecular genetic techniques are excellent for describing the average of thousands or millions of tumour cells. But within that average, there may be smaller groups of cells whose properties only become apparent when analyzed independently.
To expose this underlying heterogeneity is important, both for the development of more targeted cancer therapies, but also to understand how different clones interact to sometimes evade current treatments.
The new method is broadly applicable to study any cancer type, and hopefully, it will help understand how cancer cells evolve within the tumour and sometimes escape treatment.
Source: Karolinska Institutet