Available only for arXiv papers.
More than half of all cancer patients receive radiation therapy, but resistance is commonly observed. Currently, it is unknown whether resistance to radiation therapy is acquired or inherently present. Here, we employed organoids derived from rectal cancer and single-cell whole genome sequencing to investigate the long-term evolution of subclones in response to radiation. Comparing single-cell whole genome karyotypes between unirradiated and irradiated organoids revealed three patterns of subclonal evolution: (i) subclonal persistence, (ii) subclonal extinction, and (iii) subclonal expansion. Only organoids in which subclonal shifts occurred (i.e., expansion or extinction) became more resistant to radiation. Although radioresistant subclones did not share recurrent copy number alterations that could explain their radioresistance, resistance was associated with reduced chromosomal instability; an association that was also observed in 529 human cancer cell lines. These data suggest resistance to radiation is inherently present and associated with reduced chromosomal instability.