(ChemotherapyAdvisor) – A new tool measures a cancer cells’ response to chemotherapy and enables personalization, according to a team of researchers of Vanderbilt University School of Medicine, Nashville, TN. This conclusion is based on a study entitled “Fractional proliferation: a method to deconvolve cell population dynamics from single-cell data,” which appeared online in Nature Methods on August 12.

In this study, the investigators developed a method that calculates cancer cell growth as a means of measuring a tumor’s response to a chemotherapeutic agent. This new method, called Fractional Proliferation, enabled the investigators to calculate changes in cell population growth in real time from single cell measurements. This method can calculate the rate of cell division and cell death, both of which are crucial to determining the efficacy of a chemotherapeutic agent.

The investigators tested their new tool by determining the mechanism by which the targeted therapy erlotinib reduces the growth of cancer cells growing in a Petri dish. In this study, the investigators used this new tool to reveal the mechanisms of action for erlotinib, to stop cells from dividing—a phenomenon known as quiescence—or to kill them.   

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This new tool enables the user to take samples from a tumor, subject them to this method in the presence of a chemotherapeutic agent, and monitor the chemotherapeutic response over time. This information could assist the oncologist to determine the length of time of the tumor response to a given chemotherapeutic agent before it recurs.

The investigators concluded that this tool will eventually work like a “personalized clinical trial.”