Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) is an aggressive subtype that frequently develops resistance to chemotherapy. An unresolved question is whether resistance is caused by the selection of rare pre-existing clones or alternatively through the acquisition of new genomic aberrations. To investigate this question, we applied single-cell DNA and RNA sequencing in addition to bulk exome sequencing to profile longitudinal samples from 20 TNBC patients during neoadjuvant chemotherapy (NAC). Deep-exome sequencing identified 10 patients in which NAC led to clonal extinction and 10 patients in which clones persisted after treatment. In 8 patients, we performed a more detailed study using single-cell DNA sequencing to analyze 900 cells and single-cell RNA sequencing to analyze 6,862 cells. Our data showed that resistant genotypes were pre-existing and adaptively selected by NAC, while transcriptional profiles were acquired by reprogramming in response to chemotherapy in TNBC patients.
Keywords: breast cancer genomics; cancer aneuploidy; chemotherapy; copy-number evolution; intratumor heterogeneity; single-cell sequencing; therapy resistance; triple-negative breast cancer; tumor evolution.
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