Tackling the cancer stem cells - what challenges do they pose?
ABSTRACT: Since their identification in 1994, cancer stem cells (CSCs) have been objects of intensive study. Their properties and mechanisms of formation have become a major focus of current cancer research, in part because of their enhanced ability to initiate and drive tumour growth and their intrinsic resistance to conventional therapeutics. The discovery that activation of the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) programme in carcinoma cells can give rise to cells with stem-like properties has provided one possible mechanism explaining how CSCs arise and presents a possible avenue for their therapeutic manipulation. Here we address recent developments in CSC research, focusing on carcinomas that are able to undergo EMT. We discuss the signalling pathways that create these cells, cell-intrinsic mechanisms that could be exploited for selective elimination or induction of their differentiation, and the role of the tumour microenvironment in sustaining them. Finally, we propose ways to use our current knowledge of the complex biology of CSCs to design novel therapies to eliminate them.
Project description:Cancer stem cell (CSC) has become recognized for its role in both tumorigenesis and poor patient prognosis in recent years. Traditional therapeutics are unable to effectively eliminate this group of cells from the bulk population of cancer cells, allowing CSCs to persist posttreatment and thus propagate into secondary tumors. The therapeutic potential of eliminating CSCs, to decrease tumor relapse, has created a demand for identifying mechanisms that directly target and eliminate cancer stem cells. Molecular profiling has shown that cancer cells and tumors that exhibit the CSC phenotype also express genes associated with the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) feature. Ample evidence has demonstrated that upregulation of master transcription factors (TFs) accounting for the EMT process such as Snail/Slug and Twist can reprogram cancer cells from differentiated to stem-like status. Despite being appealing therapeutic targets for tackling CSCs, pharmacological approaches that directly target EMT-TFs remain impossible. In this review, we will summarize recent advances in the regulation of Snail/Slug and Twist at transcriptional, translational, and posttranslational levels and discuss the clinical implication and application for EMT blockade as a promising strategy for CSC targeting.
Project description:The cell-biological program termed the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) confers on cancer cells mesenchymal traits and an ability to enter the cancer stem cell (CSC) state. However, the interactions between CSCs and their surrounding microenvironment are poorly understood. Here we show that tumour-associated monocytes and macrophages (TAMs) create a CSC niche through juxtacrine signalling with CSCs. We performed quantitative proteomic profiling and found that the EMT program upregulates the expression of CD90, also known as Thy1, and EphA4, which mediate the physical interactions of CSCs with TAMs by directly binding with their respective counter-receptors on these cells. In response, the EphA4 receptor on the carcinoma cells activates Src and NF-?B. In turn, NF-?B in the CSCs induces the secretion of a variety of cytokines that serve to sustain the stem cell state. Indeed, admixed macrophages enhance the CSC activities of carcinoma cells. These findings underscore the significance of TAMs as important components of the CSC niche.
Project description:High rates of inherent primary resistance to the humanized monoclonal antibody trastuzumab (Herceptin) are frequent among HER2 gene-amplified breast carcinomas in both metastatic and adjuvant settings. The clinical efficacy of trastuzumab is highly correlated with its ability to specifically and efficiently target HER2-driven populations of breast cancer stem cells (CSCs). Intriguingly, many of the possible mechanisms by which cancer cells escape trastuzumab involve many of the same biomarkers that have been implicated in the biology of CS-like tumor-initiating cells. In the traditional, one-way hierarchy of CSCs in which all cancer cells descend from special self-renewing CSCs, HER2-positive CSCs can occur solely by self-renewal. Therefore, by targeting CSC self-renewal and resistance, trastuzumab is expected to induce tumor shrinkage and further reduce breast cancer recurrence rates when used alongside traditional therapies. In a new, alternate model, more differentiated non-stem cancer cells can revert to trastuzumab-refractory, CS-like cells via the activation of intrinsic or microenvironmental paths-to-stemness, such as the epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT). Alternatively, stochastic transitions of trastuzumab-responsive CSCs might also give rise to non-CSC cellular states that lack major attributes of CSCs and, therefore, can remain "hidden" from trastuzumab activity. Here, we hypothesize that a better understanding of the CSC/non-CSC social structure within HER2-overexpressing breast carcinomas is critical for trastuzumab-based treatment decisions in the clinic. First, we decipher the biological significance of CSC features and the EMT on the molecular effects and efficacy of trastuzumab in HER2-positive breast cancer cells. Second, we reinterpret the genetic heterogeneity that differentiates trastuzumab-responders from non-responders in terms of CSC cellular states. Finally, we propose that novel predictive approaches aimed at better forecasting early tumor responses to trastuzumab should identify biological determinants that causally underlie the intrinsic flexibility of HER2-positive CSCs to "enter" into or "exit" from trastuzumab-sensitive states. An accurate integration of CSC cellular states and EMT-related biomarkers with the currently available breast cancer molecular taxonomy may significantly improve our ability to make a priori decisions about whether patients belonging to HER2 subtypes differentially enriched with a "mesenchymal transition signature" (e.g., luminal/HER2 vs. basal/HER2) would distinctly benefit from trastuzumab-based therapy ab initio.
Project description:Cancer stem cells (CSCs) drive tumour spread and therapeutic resistance, and can undergo epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and mesenchymal-to-epithelial transition (MET) to switch between epithelial and post-EMT sub-populations. Examining oral squamous cell carcinoma (OSCC), we now show that increased phenotypic plasticity, the ability to undergo EMT/MET, underlies increased CSC therapeutic resistance within both the epithelial and post-EMT sub-populations. The post-EMT CSCs that possess plasticity exhibit particularly enhanced therapeutic resistance and are defined by a CD44(high)EpCAM(low/-) CD24(+) cell surface marker profile. Treatment with TGFβ and retinoic acid (RA) enabled enrichment of this sub-population for therapeutic testing, through which the endoplasmic reticulum (ER) stressor and autophagy inhibitor Thapsigargin was shown to selectively target these cells. Demonstration of the link between phenotypic plasticity and therapeutic resistance, and development of an in vitro method for enrichment of a highly resistant CSC sub-population, provides an opportunity for the development of improved chemotherapeutic agents that can eliminate CSCs.
Project description:The glycolytic response of hypoxic cells is primarily mediated by the hypoxia inducible factor alpha (HIF-1?) but even in the presence of abundant oxygen tumours typically show high rates of glycolysis. Higher levels of HIF-1? in tumours are associated with a poorer prognosis and up-regulation of markers of epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) due to HIF-1? actions. We have recently shown that EMT occurs within the CD44(high) cancer stem cell (CSC) fraction and that epithelial and EMT CSCs are distinguished by high and low ESA expression, respectively. We here show that hypoxia induces a marked shift of the CSC fraction towards EMT leading to altered cell morphology, an increased proportion of CD44(high)/ESA(low) cells, patterns of gene expression typical of EMT, and enhanced sphere-forming ability. The size of EMT fractions returned to control levels in normoxia indicating a reversible process. Surprisingly, however, even under normoxic conditions a fraction of EMT CSCs was present and maintained high levels of HIF-1?, apparently due to actions of cytokines such as TNF?. Functionally, this EMT CSC fraction showed decreased mitochondrial mass and membrane potential, consumed far less oxygen per cell, and produced markedly reduced levels of reactive oxygen species (ROS). These differences in the patterns of oxygen metabolism of sub-fractions of tumour cells provide an explanation for the general therapeutic resistance of CSCs and for the even greater resistance of EMT CSCs. They also identify potential mechanisms for manipulation of CSCs.
Project description:Cancer stem cells (CSCs) paradigm suggests that CSCs might have important clinical implications in cancer therapy. Previously, we reported that accumulation efficiency of CSCs is different post low- and high-LET irradiation in 48 h.Cancer stem cells and non-stem cancer cells (NSCCs) were sorted and functionally identified through a variety of assays such as antigen profiles and sphere formation. Inter-conversion between CSCs and NSCCs were in situ visualised. Cancer stem cells proportions were assayed over multiple generations under normal and irradiation surroundings. Supplement and inhibition of TGF-?1, as well as immunofluorescence assay of E-cadherin and Vimentin, were performed.Surface antigen markers of CSCs and NSCCs exist in an intrinsic homoeostasis state with spontaneous and in situ visualisable inter-conversions, irrespective of prior radiations. Supplement with TGF-?1 accelerates the equilibrium, whereas inhibition of TGF-? signalling disturbs the equilibrium and significantly decreases CSC proportion. Epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT) might be activated during the process.Our results indicate that the intrinsic inter-conversion and dynamic equilibrium between CSCs and NSCCs exist under normal and irradiation surroundings, and TGF-? might have important roles in the equilibrium through activating EMT.
Project description:OBJECTIVES:Evidence has indicated that ovarian epithelial cancer-type cells under serum-free culture conditions can form spheroid cells and exhibit characteristics expected of cancer stem-like cells (CSCs). However, the mechanism by which differentiated ovarian cancer cells acquire stem-cell properties during CSC enrichment has needed to be elucidated. Recent studies have demonstrated that induction of epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) can generate CSCs and be associated with tumour aggressiveness and metastasis. MATERIALS AND METHODS:Ovarian epithelial cancer cell lines, SKOV3 and HO8920, were cultured for spheroid cells and adherent cells. CSC enrichment was investigated using MTT assay, flow cytometery and qRT-PCR and expression level of PI3K/AKT pathway components was analysed by western blotting. RESULTS:Compared to adherent cells, the spheroid cells expressed mesenchymal markers highly and exhibited significantly more motility; we also observed increases in phosphate AKT1 levels in the spheroid cells. Moreover, transfection of miR-20a or miR-200c led to corresponding reduction in endogenous PTEN protein, while AKT1 and phosphate AKT1 levels were upregulated in miRNAs-transfected cells. Finally, PI3K/AKT pathway inhibitor LY294002 reduced expressions of mesenchymal markers and stem-cell gene activity in spheroid cells, enhancing sensitivity of spheroid cells to paclitaxel treatment. CONCLUSIONS:Our findings demonstrate that EMT contributed to enrichment of ovarian CSCs in vitro, making EMT targeting in epithelial ovarian cancer a novel therapeutic option.
Project description:Colorectal cancer (CRC) patients develop recurrence after chemotherapy owing to the survival of stem cell-like cells referred to as cancer stem-like cells (CSCs). The origin of CSCs is linked to the epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) process. Currently, it remains poorly understood how EMT programmes enable CSCs residing in the tumour microenvironment to escape the effects of chemotherapy. This study identifies a key molecular pathway that is responsible for the formation of drug-resistant CSC populations. Using a modified yeast-2-hybrid system and 2D gel-based proteomics methods, we show that the E3-ubiquitin ligase FBXW7 directly binds and degrades the EMT-inducing transcription factor ZEB2 in a phosphorylation-dependent manner. Loss of FBXW7 induces an EMT that can be effectively reversed by knockdown of ZEB2. The FBXW7-ZEB2 axis regulates such important cancer cell features, as stemness/dedifferentiation, chemoresistance and cell migration in vitro, ex vivo and in animal models of metastasis. High expression of ZEB2 in cancer tissues defines the reduced ZEB2 expression in the cancer-associated stroma in patients and in murine intestinal organoids, demonstrating a tumour-stromal crosstalk that modulates a niche and EMT activation. Our study thus uncovers a new molecular mechanism, by which the CRC cells display differences in resistance to chemotherapy and metastatic potential.
Project description:Complex regulatory networks control epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) but the underlying epigenetic control is poorly understood. Lysine-specific demethylase 1 (LSD1) is a key histone demethylase that alters the epigenetic landscape. Here we explored the role of LSD1 in global epigenetic regulation of EMT, cancer stem cells (CSCs), the tumour microenvironment, and therapeutic resistance in breast cancer. LSD1 induced pan-genomic gene expression in networks implicated in EMT and selectively elicits gene expression programs in CSCs whilst repressing non-CSC programs. LSD1 phosphorylation at serine-111 (LSD1-s111p) by chromatin anchored protein kinase C-theta (PKC-?), is critical for its demethylase and EMT promoting activity and LSD1-s111p is enriched in chemoresistant cells in vivo. LSD1 couples to PKC-? on the mesenchymal gene epigenetic template promotes LSD1-mediated gene induction. In vivo, chemotherapy reduced tumour volume, and when combined with an LSD1 inhibitor, abrogated the mesenchymal signature and promoted an innate, M1 macrophage-like tumouricidal immune response. Circulating tumour cells (CTCs) from metastatic breast cancer (MBC) patients were enriched with LSD1 and pharmacological blockade of LSD1 suppressed the mesenchymal and stem-like signature in these patient-derived CTCs. Overall, LSD1 inhibition may serve as a promising epigenetic adjuvant therapy to subvert its pleiotropic roles in breast cancer progression and treatment resistance.
Project description:BACKGROUND:Clear cell renal cell carcinoma (CCRCC) is characterized by a highly metastatic potential. The stromal communication between stem cells and cancer cells critically influences metastatic dissemination of cancer cells. METHODS:The effect of exosomes isolated from cancer stem cells (CSCs) of CCRCC patients on the progress of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and lung metastasis of CCRCC cells were examined. RESULTS:CSCs exosomes promoted proliferation of CCRCC cells and accelerated the progress of EMT. Bioactive miR-19b-3p transmitted to cancer cells by CSC exosomes induced EMT via repressing the expression of PTEN. CSCs exosomes derived from CCRCC patients with lung metastasis produced the strongest promoting effect on EMT. Notably, CD103+ CSC exosomes were enriched in tumor cells and in lung as well, highlighting the organotropism conferred by CD103. In addition, CD103+ exosomes were increased in blood samples from CCRCC patients with lung metastasis. CONCLUSIONS:CSC exosomes transported miR-19b-3p into CCRCC cells and initiated EMT promoting metastasis. CD103+ acted to guide CSC exosomes to target cancer cells and organs, conferring the higher metastatic capacity of CCRCC to lungs, suggesting CD103+ exosomes as a potential metastatic diagnostic biomarker. ?.