Publication Date


Document Type

Doctoral Dissertation

Academic Program

Cancer Biology


Molecular, Cell and Cancer Biology

First Thesis Advisor

Stephen R. Lyle, MD, PhD


Neoplasms, Neoplastic Stem Cells, Antineoplastic Combined Chemotherapy Protocols, Drug Resistance, Neoplasm, Neoplasms, Experimental


Tumor recurrence after chemotherapy is a major cause of patient morbidity and mortality. Recurrences are thought to be due to small subsets of stem-like cancer cells that are able to survive chemotherapy and drive tumor re-growth. A more complete understanding of stem-like cancer cell regulation is required to develop therapies to better target and eliminate these cells.

Slow-cycling stem cells are integral components of adult epithelial tissues and may give rise to cancer stem cell populations that share similar characteristics. These slow-cycling adult stem cells are inherently resistant to traditional forms of chemotherapy and transference of this characteristic may help to explain therapy resistance in cancer stem cell populations. Using a novel application for the proliferation marker CFSE, we have identified populations of slow-cycling cancer cells with tumor initiating capabilities. As predicted, slow-cycling cancer cells exhibit a multi-fold increase in chemotherapy resistance and retain the ability to re-enter the cell cycle. Furthermore, we observed consistent over-expression of the CDK5 activator, p35, in slow-cycling cancer cells. Manipulation of p35 expression in cancer cells affects cell cycle distribution and survival when these cells are treated with traditional forms of chemotherapy. Additionally, we demonstrate that alterations in p35 expression affect BCL2 levels, suggesting a mechanism for the survival phenotype.

Combined, our data suggest a model whereby slow-cycling stem-like cancer cells utilize the p35/CDK5 complex to slow cell cycling speed and promote resistance to chemotherapy. Future p35 targeting, in combination with traditional forms of chemotherapy, may help eliminate these cells and reduce tumor recurrence rates, increasing long-term patient survival.



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