Research ArticleCANCER

Patient-tailored design for selective co-inhibition of leukemic cell subpopulations

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Science Advances  19 Feb 2021:
Vol. 7, no. 8, eabe4038
DOI: 10.1126/sciadv.abe4038


The extensive drug resistance requires rational approaches to design personalized combinatorial treatments that exploit patient-specific therapeutic vulnerabilities to selectively target disease-driving cell subpopulations. To solve the combinatorial explosion challenge, we implemented an effective machine learning approach that prioritizes patient-customized drug combinations with a desired synergy-efficacy-toxicity balance by combining single-cell RNA sequencing with ex vivo single-agent testing in scarce patient-derived primary cells. When applied to two diagnostic and two refractory acute myeloid leukemia (AML) patient cases, each with a different genetic background, we accurately predicted patient-specific combinations that not only resulted in synergistic cancer cell co-inhibition but also were capable of targeting specific AML cell subpopulations that emerge in differing stages of disease pathogenesis or treatment regimens. Our functional precision oncology approach provides an unbiased means for systematic identification of personalized combinatorial regimens that selectively co-inhibit leukemic cells while avoiding inhibition of nonmalignant cells, thereby increasing their likelihood for clinical translation.

This is an open-access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial license, which permits use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, so long as the resultant use is not for commercial advantage and provided the original work is properly cited.

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