Certain cancers are able to develop drug resistance so fast that therapies that originally seem promising are quickly proven ineffective. Glioblastoma, the pernicious brain cancer, invariably develops drug resistance soon after treatment, but it hasn’t been clear how it does that or what the consequences are for further therapy. A collaboration between scientists from UCLA and Caltech has led to the development of microfluidic chips that can be used to detect the onset of drug resistance and to predict what combination of compounds will best work on a given tumor.
The chips contain so-called DNA “barcodes” that can identify specific mutations of tumor cells that are placed within. The mutations lead to resistance to certain compounds, so knowing ahead of time which drugs will and will not work can lead to very targeted and effective treatment.
Interestingly, the researchers discovered that the very same cells that receive a drug eventually develop resistance to it. It has previously been thought that only later generations of the cells, through genetic changes, are able to become resistant. The team identified the changes that take place within the cells that lead to resistance, allowing them to target weaker targets that don’t seem to be affected by the intracellular changes.
In a laboratory study with glioblastoma, the team came up with three drug combinations that they predicted would work for a given tumor and tested them successfully. Moreover, in mammalian models with melanoma the same technique worked well in assigning drugs that would work well for those tumors.
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