Cancer cell profiling by barcoding allows multiplexed protein analysis in fine-needle aspirates.
Published by Sci Trans. Med.
Immunohistochemistry-based clinical diagnoses require invasive core biopsies and use a limited number of protein stains to identify and classify cancers. We introduce a technology that allows analysis of hundreds of proteins from minimally invasive fine-needle aspirates (FNAs), which contain much smaller numbers of cells than core biopsies. The method capitalizes on DNA-barcoded antibody sensing, where barcodes can be photocleaved and digitally detected without any amplification steps. After extensive benchmarking in cell lines, this method showed high reproducibility and achieved single-cell sensitivity. We used this approach to profile ~90 proteins in cells from FNAs and subsequently map patient heterogeneity at the protein level. Additionally, we demonstrate how the method could be used as a clinical tool to identify pathway responses to molecularly targeted drugs and to predict drug response in patient samples. This technique combines specificity with ease of use to offer a new tool for understanding human cancers and designing future clinical trials.