Building a reproducible single-cell experimental workflow to capture tumour drug persistence


Cancer kills almost 10 million people globally every year, making it a leading cause of death. Some 90 % of these deaths occur in people who initially responded well to treatment, but whose cancer subsequently became resistant to treatment. The source of this drug resistance lies in rare cancer cells called ‘drug tolerant persister’ cells, or DTPs. Studies show that DTPs survive drug treatments by altering the activity of certain genes. However, the underlying mechanisms behind cancer drug resistance are poorly understood and it is currently difficult to predict, prevent and treat. 

The aim of PERSIST-SEQ is to shed new light on the mechanisms behind treatment resistance. To do this, they will develop a standardised approach to studying and sequencing the genetic code of individual cancer cells before, during and after treatment. In total, the project plans to use state-of-the-art technology to characterise 5 million cells and will mainly focus on lung, colorectal and breast cancer.

Ultimately, the project will dramatically add to our understanding of the underlying causes of treatment resistance in cancer, and make it easier for researchers to develop smarter treatment strategies that will better treat cancer and prevent resistance.



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EFPIA companies
  • Astrazeneca AB, Södertälje, Sweden
  • Bayer Aktiengesellschaft, Leverkusen, Germany
  • Charles River Discovery Research Services Germany GMBH, Freiburg, Germany
  • Merck Kommanditgesellschaft Auf Aktien, Darmstadt, Germany
  • Transgene SA, Illkirch-Graffenstaden, France
Universities, research organisations, public bodies, non-profit groups
  • Fondazione Del Piemonte Per L'Oncologia, Candiolo To, Italy
  • Fundacio Institut De Recerca Biomedica (Irb Barcelona), Barcelona, Spain
  • Fundacio Privada Institut D'Investigacio Oncologica De Vall-Hebron (Vhio), Barcelona, Spain
  • Genome Research Limited, London, United Kingdom
  • Stichting Hubrecht Organoid Technology, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Stichting Oncode Institute, Utrecht, Netherlands
Small and medium-sized enterprises (SMEs) and mid-sized companies (<€500 m turnover)
  • Single Cell Discoveries BV, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Stichting Lygature, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Xenopat SL, Hospitalet De Llobregat, Spain
Third parties
  • Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen - Knaw, Utrecht, Netherlands
  • Stichting Het Nederlands Kanker Instituut-Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek Ziekenhuis, Amsterdam, Netherlands

NameIHI funding in €
Fondazione Del Piemonte Per L'Oncologia375 000
Fundacio Institut De Recerca Biomedica (Irb Barcelona)375 000
Fundacio Privada Institut D'Investigacio Oncologica De Vall-Hebron (Vhio)374 995
Genome Research Limited372 446
Single Cell Discoveries BV2 105 000
Stichting Hubrecht Organoid Technology374 660
Stichting Lygature549 129
Stichting Oncode Institute406 875
Xenopat SL375 000
Third parties
NameFunding in €
Koninklijke Nederlandse Akademie Van Wetenschappen - Knaw1 374 500
Stichting Het Nederlands Kanker Instituut-Antoni Van Leeuwenhoek Ziekenhuis375 375
Total Cost7 057 980