Characterizing dry mass and volume changes in human multiple myeloma cells upon treatment with proteotoxic and genotoxic drugs

Xili Liu, Maria Moscvin, Seungeun Oh, Tianzeng Chen, Wonshik Choi, Benjamin Evans, Sean M. Rowell, Omar Nadeem, Clifton C. Mo, Adam S. Sperling, Kenneth C. Anderson, Zahid Yaqoob, Giada Bianchi, Yongjin Sung

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Multiple myeloma (MM) is a cancer of terminally differentiated plasma cells. MM remains incurable, but overall survival of patients has progressively increased over the past two decades largely due to novel agents such as proteasome inhibitors (PI) and the immunomodulatory agents. While these therapies are highly effective, MM patients can be de novo resistant and acquired resistance with prolonged treatment is inevitable. There is growing interest in early, accurate identification of responsive versus non-responsive patients; however, limited sample availability and need for rapid assays are limiting factors. Here, we test dry mass and volume as label-free biomarkers to monitor early response of MM cells to treatment with bortezomib, doxorubicin, and ultraviolet light. For the dry mass measurement, we use two types of phase-sensitive optical microscopy techniques: digital holographic tomography and computationally enhanced quantitative phase microscopy. We show that human MM cell lines (RPMI8226, MM.1S, KMS20, and AMO1) increase dry mass upon bortezomib treatment. This dry mass increase after bortezomib treatment occurs as early as 1 h for sensitive cells and 4 h for all tested cells. We further confirm this observation using primary multiple myeloma cells derived from patients and show that a correlation exists between increase in dry mass and sensitivity to bortezomib, supporting the use of dry mass as a biomarker. The volume measurement using Coulter counter shows a more complex behavior; RPMI8226 cells increase the volume at an early stage of apoptosis, but MM.1S cells show the volume decrease typically observed with apoptotic cells. Altogether, this cell study presents complex kinetics of dry mass and volume at an early stage of apoptosis, which may serve as a basis for the detection and treatment of MM cells.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)3821-3832
Number of pages12
JournalClinical and Experimental Medicine
Issue number7
Publication statusPublished - 2023 Nov

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Switzerland AG.


  • Apoptosis
  • Cell dry mass
  • Label-free biomarkers
  • Multiple myeloma
  • Proteasome inhibitors

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • General Biochemistry,Genetics and Molecular Biology


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