Tumorigenic circulating tumor cells from xenograft mouse models of non-metastatic NSCLC patients reveal distinct single cell heterogeneity and drug responses

Kanve N. Suvilesh, Yulia I. Nussbaum, Vijay Radhakrishnan, Yariswamy Manjunath, Diego M. Avella, Kevin F. Staveley-O’Carroll, Eric T. Kimchi, Aadel A. Chaudhuri, Chi Ren Shyu, Guangfu Li, Klaus Pantel, Wesley C. Warren, Jonathan B. Mitchem*, Jussuf T. Kaifi

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalLetterpeer-review

16 Scopus citations


Background: Circulating tumor cells (CTCs) are liquid biopsies that represent micrometastatic disease and may offer unique insights into future recurrences in non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Due to CTC rarity and limited stability, no stable CTC-derived xenograft (CDX) models have ever been generated from non-metastatic NSCLC patients directly. Alternative strategies are needed to molecularly characterize CTCs and means of potential future metastases in this potentially curable patient group. Methods: Surgically resected NSCLC primary tumor tissues from non-metastatic patients were implanted subcutaneously in immunodeficient mice to establish primary tumor patient-derived xenograft (ptPDX) models. CTCs were isolated as liquid biopsies from the blood of ptPDX mice and re-implanted subcutaneously into naïve immunodeficient mice to generate liquid biopsy CTC-derived xenograft (CDX) tumor models. Single cell RNA sequencing was performed and validated in an external dataset of non-xenografted human NSCLC primary tumor and metastases tissues. Drug response testing in CDX models was performed with standard of care chemotherapy (carboplatin/paclitaxel). Blockade of MYC, which has a known role in drug resistance, was performed with a MYC/MAX dimerization inhibitor (10058-F4). Results: Out of ten ptPDX, two (20%) stable liquid biopsy CDX mouse models were generated. Single cell RNA sequencing analysis revealed an additional regenerative alveolar epithelial type II (AT2)-like cell population in CDX tumors that was also identified in non-xenografted NSCLC patients’ metastases tissues. Drug testing using these CDX models revealed different treatment responses to carboplatin/paclitaxel. MYC target genes and c-MYC protein were upregulated in the chemoresistant CDX model, while MYC/MAX dimerization blocking could overcome chemoresistance to carboplatin/paclitaxel. Conclusions: To overcome the lack of liquid biopsy CDX models from non-metastatic NSCLC patients, CDX models can be generated with CTCs from ptPDX models that were originally established from patients’ primary tumors. Single cell analyses can identify distinct drug responses and cell heterogeneities in CDX tumors that can be validated in NSCLC metastases tissues. CDX models deserve further development and study to discover personalized strategies against micrometastases in non-metastatic NSCLC patients.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number73
JournalMolecular Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - Dec 2022

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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