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Small cell lung cancer acquires cross-resistance due to extrachromosomal DNA amplification of MYC paralogs

CRI Researcher Sihan Wu, Ph.D.

Summary: Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) presents as a highly chemosensitive malignancy but acquires cross-resistance after relapse. This transformation is nearly inevitable in patients but has been difficult to capture in laboratory models. Here, we present a preclinical system that recapitulates acquired cross-resistance, developed from 51 patient-derived xenograft (PDX) models. Each model was tested in vivo against three clinical regimens: cisplatin plus etoposide, olaparib plus temozolomide, and topotecan. These drug-response profiles captured hallmark clinical features of SCLC, such as the emergence of treatment-refractory disease after early relapse. For one patient, serial PDX models revealed that cross-resistance was acquired through MYC amplification on extrachromosomal DNA (ecDNA). Genomic and transcriptional profiles of the full PDX panel revealed that MYC paralog amplifications on ecDNAs were recurrent in relapsed cross-resistant SCLC, and this was corroborated in tumor biopsies from relapsed patients. We conclude that ecDNAs with MYC paralogs are recurrent drivers of cross-resistance in SCLC.

Significance: SCLC is initially chemosensitive, but acquired cross-resistance renders this disease refractory to further treatment and ultimately fatal. The genomic drivers of this transformation are unknown. We use a population of PDX models to discover that amplifications of MYC paralogs on ecDNA are recurrent drivers of acquired cross-resistance in SCLC.

Read the full research published in Cancer Discovery.

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