Applying single cell multi-omic analyses to understand treatment resistance in pediatric high grade glioma
Despite improvements in cancer patient outcomes seen in the past decade, tumor resistance to therapy remains a major impediment to achieving durable clinical responses. Intratumoral heterogeneity related to genetic, epigenetic, transcriptomic, proteomic, and metabolic differences between individual cancer cells has emerged as a driver of therapeutic resistance. This cell to cell heterogeneity can be assessed using single cell profiling technologies that enable the identification of tumor cell clones that exhibit similar defining features like specific mutations or patterns of DNA methylation. Single cell profiling of tumors before and after treatment can generate new insights into the cancer cell characteristics that confer therapeutic resistance by identifying intrinsically resistant sub-populations that survive treatment and by describing new cellular features that emerge post-treatment due to tumor cell evolution. Integrative, single cell analytical approaches have already proven advantageous in studies characterizing treatment-resistant clones in cancers where pre- and post-treatment patient samples are readily available, such as leukemia. In contrast, little is known about other cancer subtypes like pediatric high grade glioma, a class of heterogeneous, malignant brain tumors in children that rapidly develop resistance to multiple therapeutic modalities, including chemotherapy, immunotherapy, and radiation. Leveraging single cell multi-omic technologies to analyze naïve and therapy-resistant glioma may lead to the discovery of novel strategies to overcome treatment resistance in brain tumors with dismal clinical outcomes. In this review, we explore the potential for single cell multi-omic analyses to reveal mechanisms of glioma resistance to therapy and discuss opportunities to apply these approaches to improve long-term therapeutic response in pediatric high grade glioma and other brain tumors with limited treatment options.