A multi-state model of chemoresistance to characterize phenotypic dynamics in breast cancer.


The development of resistance to chemotherapy is a major cause of treatment failure in breast cancer. While mathematical models describing the dynamics of resistant cancer cell subpopulations have been proposed, experimental validation has been difficult due to the complex nature of resistance that limits the ability of a single phenotypic marker to sufficiently identify the drug resistant subpopulations. We address this problem with a coupled experimental/modeling approach to reveal the composition of drug resistant subpopulations changing in time following drug exposure. We calibrate time-resolved drug sensitivity assays to three mathematical models to interrogate the models' ability to capture drug response dynamics. The Akaike information criterion was employed to evaluate the three models, and it identified a multi-state model incorporating the role of population heterogeneity and cellular plasticity as the optimal model. To validate the model's ability to identify subpopulation composition, we mixed different proportions of wild-type MCF-7 and MCF-7/ADR resistant cells and evaluated the corresponding model output. Our blinded two-state model was able to estimate the proportions of cell types with an R-squared value of 0.857. To the best of our knowledge, this is the first work to combine experimental time-resolved drug sensitivity data with a mathematical model of resistance development.

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