Created by: Jason Griffiths, Rena Emond (@AndreaBildLab)
Issue 265: Framing cancer growth in an ecological context revealed why drug (x) sensitive cells (S: yellow) grow better when with resistant cells (R: red) than they do alone. Dynamical models of competition and facilitation were combined with fluorescence imaging and molecular assays (including single cell RNA sequencing) to clarify how resistance is transferred from resistant to sensitive cells. We revealed that resistant cancer cells amplify production of Estradiol (E), a potent growth hormone. Estradiol diffuses within the microenvironment, facilitating proliferation of otherwise sensitive cells under treatment. Blocking growth facilitation controlled the entire cancer population. This work supports the development of treatment strategies to block cooperative communications between cancer populations to more robustly control tumor growth.