Genomic and epigenomic evolution of acquired resistance to combination therapy in esophageal squamous cell carcinoma

JCI Insight. 2021 Sep 8;6(17):150203. doi: 10.1172/jci.insight.150203.


BACKGROUNDTargeted arterial infusion of verapamil combined with chemotherapy (TVCC) is an effective clinical interventional therapy for esophageal squamous cell carcinoma (ESCC), but multidrug resistance (MDR) remains the major cause of relapse or poor prognosis, and the underlying molecular mechanisms of MDR, temporal intratumoral heterogeneity, and clonal evolutionary processes of resistance have not been determined.METHODSTo elucidate the roles of genetic and epigenetic alterations in the evolution of acquired resistance during therapies, we performed whole-exome sequencing on 16 serial specimens from 7 patients with ESCC at every cycle of therapeutic intervention from 3 groups, complete response, partial response, and progressive disease, and we performed whole-genome bisulfite sequencing for 3 of these 7 patients, 1 patient from each group.RESULTSPatients with progressive disease exhibited a substantially higher genomic and epigenomic temporal heterogeneity. Subclonal expansions driven by the beneficial new mutations were observed during combined therapies, which explained the emergence of MDR. Notably, SLC7A8 was identified as a potentially novel MDR gene, and functional assays demonstrated that mutant SLC7A8 promoted the resistance phenotypes of ESCC cell lines. Promoter methylation dynamics during treatments revealed 8 drug resistance protein-coding genes characterized by hypomethylation in promoter regions. Intriguingly, promoter hypomethylation of SLC8A3 and mutant SLC7A8 were enriched in an identical pathway, protein digestion and absorption, indicating a potentially novel MDR mechanism during treatments.CONCLUSIONOur integrated multiomics investigations revealed the dynamics of temporal genetic and epigenetic inter- and intratumoral heterogeneity, clonal evolutionary processes, and epigenomic changes, providing potential MDR therapeutic targets in treatment-resistant patients with ESCC during combined therapies.FUNDINGNational Natural Science Foundation of China, Science Foundation of Peking University Cancer Hospital, CAMS Innovation Fund for Medical Sciences, Major Program of Shenzhen Bay Laboratory, Guangdong Basic and Applied Basic Research Foundation, and the third round of public welfare development and reform pilot projects of Beijing Municipal Medical Research Institutes.

PMID:34494553 | DOI:10.1172/jci.insight.150203