Probing metabolic alterations in breast cancer in response to molecular inhibitors with Raman spectroscopy and validated with mass spectrometry

Chem Sci. 2020 Aug 20;11(36):9863-9874. doi: 10.1039/d0sc02221g.


Rapid and accurate response to targeted therapies is critical to differentiate tumors that are resistant to treatment early in the regimen. In this work, we demonstrate a rapid, noninvasive, and label-free approach to evaluate treatment response to molecular inhibitors in breast cancer (BC) cells with Raman spectroscopy (RS). Metabolic reprogramming in BC was probed with RS and multivariate analysis was applied to classify the cells into responsive or nonresponsive groups as a function of drug dosage, drug type, and cell type. Metabolites identified with RS were then validated with mass spectrometry (MS). We treated triple-negative BC cells with Trametinib, an inhibitor of the extracellular-signal-regulated kinase (ERK) pathway. Changes measured with both RS and MS corresponding to membrane phospholipids, amino acids, lipids and fatty acids indicated that these BC cells were responsive to treatment. Comparatively, minimal metabolic changes were observed post-treatment with Alpelisib, an inhibitor of the mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) pathway, indicating treatment resistance. These findings were corroborated with cell viability assay and immunoblotting. We also showed estrogen receptor-positive MCF-7 cells were nonresponsive to Trametinib with minimal metabolic and viability changes. Our findings support that oncometabolites identified with RS will ultimately enable rapid drug screening in patients ensuring patients receive the most effective treatment at the earliest time point.