A divide-and-conquer strategy in tumor sampling enhances detection of intratumor heterogeneity in routine pathology: A modeling approach in clear cell renal cell carcinoma

Intratumor heterogeneity (ITH) is an inherent process in cancer development which follows for most of the cases a branched pattern of evolution, with different cell clones evolving independently in space and time across different areas of the same tumor.

The determination of ITH (in both spatial and temporal domains) is nowadays critical to enhance patient treatment and prognosis. Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC) provides a good example of ITH. Sometimes the tumor is too big to be totally analyzed for ITH detection and pathologists decide which parts must be sampled for the analysis. For such a purpose, pathologists follow internationally accepted protocols. In light of the latest findings, however, current sampling protocols seem to be insufficient for detecting ITH with significant reliability. The arrival of new targeted therapies, some of them providing promising alternatives to improve patient survival, pushes the pathologist to obtain a truly representative sampling of tumor diversity in routine practice. How large this sampling must be and how this must be performed are unanswered questions so far.  Here we present a very simple method for tumor sampling that enhances ITH detection without increasing costs. This method follows a divide-and-conquer (DAC) strategy, that is, rather than sampling a small number of large-size tumor-pieces as the routine protocol (RP) advises, we suggest sampling many small-size pieces along the tumor. We performed a computational modeling approach to show that the usefulness of the DAC strategy is twofold: first, we show that DAC outperforms RP with similar laboratory costs, and second, DAC is capable of performing similar to total tumor sampling (TTS) but, very remarkably, at a much lower cost. We thus provide new light to push forward a shift in the paradigm about how pathologists should sample tumors for achieving efficient ITH detection.

F1000Research. 2016 Mar 22*** epublish ***

José I Lopez, Jesús M Cortes

Department of Pathology, Cruces University Hospital, Biocruces Research Institute, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Barakaldo, Spain., Quantitative Biomedicine Unit, Biocruces Research Institute, Barakaldo, Spain; Ikerbasque: The Basque Foundation for Science, Bilbao, Spain; Department of Cell Biology and Histology, University of the Basque Country (UPV/EHU), Leioa, Spain.