Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cancer Biology


Department of Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Dario C. Altieri, M.D.


Neoplasm Proteins, Signal Transduction, Breast Neoplasms, Insulin-Like Growth Factor I, Receptor, Notch1


The 21st century brought about a dramatic increase in knowledge about genetic and molecular profiles of cancer. This information has validated the complexity of tumor cells and increased awareness of “nodal proteins”, but has yet to advance the development of rational targeted cancer therapeutics. Nodal proteins are critical cellular proteins that collect biological inputs and distribute the information across diverse biological processes. Survivin acts as a nodal protein by interfacing the multiple signals involved in mitosis and apoptosis and functionally integrate proliferation, cell death, and cellular homeostasis. By characterizing survivin as a target of both Type 1 Insulin-like Growth Factor (IGF-1) and Notch developmental signaling, we contribute to the paradigm of survivin as a nodal protein. The two signaling systems, Notch and IGF-1, regulate survivin by two independent mechanisms. Notch activation induces survivin transcription preferentially in basal breast cancer, a breast cancer subtype with poor prognosis and lack of molecular therapies. Activated Notch binds the transcription factor RBP-Jк and drives transcription from the survivin promoter. Notch mediated survivin expression increases cell cycle kinetics promoting tumor proliferation. Inhibition of Notch in a breast xenograft model reduced tumor growth and systemic metastasis. On the other hand, IGF-1 signaling drives survivin protein translation in prostate cancer cells. Binding of IGF-1 to its receptor activates downstream kinases, mammalian target of rapamycin (mTOR) and p70 S6 protein kinase (p70S6K), which modulates survivin mRNA translation to increase the apoptotic threshold. The multiple roles of survivin in tumorigenesis implicate survivin as a rational target for the “next generation” of cancer therapeutics.



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