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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1994 Jul 6;86(13):975-82.

Rapid acquisition of multicellular drug resistance after a single exposure of mammary tumor cells to antitumor alkylating agents.

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  • 1Cancer Research Division, Sunnybrook Health Science Centre, Toronto, Ontario, Canada.

Abstract

BACKGROUND:

Clinical drug resistance is either intrinsic (de novo) or often acquired rapidly in conjunction with chemotherapy. By contrast, the selection of drug-resistant mutant cell lines in monolayer culture systems is usually a more protracted process. Sublines of mouse EMT-6 mammary tumor cells selected for resistance to various alkylating agents in vivo after serial passage into syngeneic mice manifest their resistance in vitro only when cultured as three-dimensional multicellular aggregates or spheroids.

PURPOSE:

We examined whether a single exposure of mouse EMT-6 or human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells to alkylating agents in vitro is sufficient for the induction of a resistance phenotype, which may be detected by re-applying the drugs to cells grown as three-dimensional aggregates.

METHODS:

Mouse EMT-6 and human MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cells cultured as three-dimensional aggregates were exposed to a single dose of alkylating agent for 1-5 days. Aggregates were dispersed, and cells were plated as monolayer cultures for up to 8 weeks to allow for recovery. Colony-forming ability was assessed after a subsequent alkylating-agent exposure of cells cultured as monolayers or three-dimensional aggregates.

RESULTS:

A single in vitro exposure to 12.5-microM cisplatin (CDDP) for 5 days or 25 microM 4-hydroperoxycyclophosphamide (4-O2H CTX) for 1 or 3 days without changing the medium was sufficient to induce transient but substantial resistance in EMT-6 cells as determined by clonogenic assays. Such resistance was not detected when monolayer cell cultures were used. The concentration of 4-O2H-CTX and the length of time the cells remained in three-dimensional culture after initial exposure to this drug was associated with the degree of subsequent drug resistance of cells grown as three-dimensional cultures. Furthermore, this acquired resistance after a single drug exposure was accompanied by changes in the three-dimensional architecture of the cell aggregates, which now formed much more compact multicellular spheroids. Similarly, a single exposure to 4-O2H-CTX was enough to bring about resistance in MDA-MB-231 cells detectable only in three-dimensional cultures, as well as the change in three-dimensional architecture.

CONCLUSIONS:

Rapid acquisition of resistance likely represents a physiologic mechanism of adaptation operative at the multicellular level rather than a stable genetic change and may be one of the reasons for the rapid development of drug resistance acquired by tumors in vivo.

IMPLICATIONS:

In vivo drug exposure may result in transient and low levels of drug resistance that may nevertheless be clinically relevant.

Comment in

PMID:
8007019
[PubMed - indexed for MEDLINE]
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