Davis JB, Krishna SS, Abi Jomaa R, Duong CT, Espina V, Liotta LA and Mueller C
Sci Rep. 2019 Nov 22;9(1):17380. doi: 10.1038/s41598-019-53850-7.
Tumor clonal heterogeneity drives treatment resistance. But robust models are lacking that permit eavesdropping on the basic interaction network of tumor clones. We developed an in vitro, functional model of clonal cooperation using U87MG glioblastoma cells, which isolates fundamental clonal interactions. In this model pre-labeled clones are co-cultured to track changes in their individual motility, growth, and drug resistance behavior while mixed. This highly reproducible system allowed us to address a new class of fundamental questions about clonal interactions. We demonstrate that (i) a single clone can switch off the motility of the entire multiclonal U87MG cell line in 3D culture, (ii) maintenance of clonal heterogeneity is an intrinsic and influential cancer cell property, where clones coordinate growth rates to protect slow growing clones, and (iii) two drug sensitive clones can develop resistance de novo when cooperating. Furthermore, clonal communication for these specific types of interaction did not require diffusible factors, but appears to depend on cell-cell contact. This model constitutes a straightforward but highly reliable tool for isolating the complex clonal interactions that make up the fundamental "hive mind" of the tumor. It uniquely exposes clonal interactions for future pharmacological and biochemical studies.