The promise of single cell omics for onco-therapy

Azizi, E., Clouthier, S.G., Wicha, M.S.

Despite extensive research effort and considerable progress, the "war on cancer" that president Nixon declared in 1971 has yet to be optimally integrated into cancer therapeutics and as such cancer remains a major medical challenge for oncologists. The dynamic and complex biology of tumor cells undergoing clonal evolution generates cells with diverse degrees of drug resistance and metastatic potential. This highlights the need to be able to access this clonal density in order to develop effective therapeutics. With this prospective, early phase single cell studies are vital for thoroughly interrogating tumor heterogeneity to uncover more about cancer cell biology and to explore new therapeutic targets leading to more successful treatments. Current evidence supports the notion that clonogenic cells within the tumor mass may potentially give rise to a population of cells with unique genomic, transcriptomic and proteomic features distinct from the rest of the tumor mass. This observation can explain drug resistance after an initial period of primary tumor response. Therefore, completely abrogating or at a minimum achieving long-term, durable control over cancer requires researchers and oncologists to employ a personalized medicine approach that includes both tumor and patient-associated variables to modify current therapeutic regimens. In this review we discuss the importance of omics and in particular single cell genomics which are increasingly promising given recently developed technology advancements to facilitate exploration of cellular heterogeneity and tumor complexity.


Azizi, E., Clouthier, S.G., Wicha, M.S. "The promise of single cell omics for onco-therapy" Journal of Molecular and Genetic Medicine (2014): 121