Quantifying cell cycle-dependent drug sensitivities in cancer using a high throughput synchronisation and screening approach.
BACKGROUND: Chemotherapy and targeted agent anti-cancer efficacy is largely dependent on the proliferative state of tumours, as exemplified by agents that target DNA synthesis/replication or mitosis. As a result, cell cycle specificities of a number of cancer drugs are well known. However, they are yet to be described in a quantifiable manner. METHODS: A scalable cell synchronisation protocol used to screen a library of 235 anti-cancer compounds exposed over six hours in G1 or S/G2 accumulated AsPC-1 cells to generate a cell cycle specificity (CCS) score. FINDINGS: The synchronisation method was associated with reduced method-related cytotoxicity compared to nocodazole, delivering sufficient cell cycle purity and cell numbers to run high-throughput drug library screens. Compounds were identified with G1 and S/G2-associated specificities that, overall, functionally matched with a compound's target/mechanism of action. This annotation was used to describe a synergistic schedule using the CDK4/6 inhibitor, palbociclib, prior to gemcitabine/AZD6738 as well as describe the correlation between the CCS score and published synergistic/antagonistic drug schedules. INTERPRETATION: This is the first highly quantitative description of cell cycle-dependent drug sensitivities that utilised a tractable and tolerated method with potential uses outside the present study. Drug treatments such as those shown to be G1 or S/G2 associated may benefit from scheduling considerations such as after CDK4/6 inhibitors and being first in drug sequences respectively. FUNDING: Cancer Research UK (CRUK) Institute core grants C14303/A17197 and C9545/A29580. The Li Ka Shing Centre where this work was performed was generously funded by CK Hutchison Holdings Limited, the University of Cambridge, CRUK, The Atlantic Philanthropies and others.