Research Article

Single-cell lineages reveal the rates, routes, and drivers of metastasis in cancer xenografts

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Science  21 Jan 2021:
eabc1944
DOI: 10.1126/science.abc1944

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Abstract

Detailed phylogenies of tumor populations can recount the history and chronology of critical events during cancer progression, such as metastatic dissemination. We applied a Cas9-based, single-cell lineage tracer to study the rates, routes, and drivers of metastasis in a lung cancer xenograft mouse model. We report deeply resolved phylogenies for tens of thousands of cancer cells traced over months of growth and dissemination. This revealed stark heterogeneity in metastatic capacity, arising from pre-existing and heritable differences in gene expression. We demonstrate that these identified genes can drive invasiveness, and uncovered an unanticipated suppressive role for KRT17. We also show that metastases disseminated via multidirectional tissue routes and complex seeding topologies. Overall, we demonstrate the power of tracing cancer progression at subclonal resolution and vast scale.

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