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      The role of autophagy in the cross-talk between epithelial-mesenchymal transitioned tumor cells and cancer stem-like cells

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          Abstract

          Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and cancer stem-like cells (CSC) are becoming highly relevant targets in anticancer drug discovery. A large body of evidence suggests that epithelial-mesenchymal transitioned tumor cells (EMT tumor cells) and CSCs have similar functions. There is also an overlap regarding the stimuli that can induce the generation of EMT tumor cells and CSCs. Moreover, direct evidence has been brought that EMT can give rise to CSCs. It is unclear however, whether EMT tumor cells should be considered CSCs or if they have to undergo further changes. In this article we summarize available evidence suggesting that, indeed, additional programs must be engaged and we propose that macroautophagy (hereafter, autophagy) represents a key trait distinguishing CSCs from EMT tumor cells. Thus, CSCs have often been reported to be in an autophagic state and blockade of autophagy inhibits CSCs. On the other hand, there is ample evidence showing that EMT and autophagy are distinct events. CSCs, however, represent, by themselves, a heterogeneous population. Thus, CSCs have been distinguished in predominantly non-cycling and cycling CSCs, the latter representing CSCs that self-renew and replenish the pool of differentiated tumor cells. We now suggest that the non-cycling CSC subpopulation is in an autophagic state. We propose also two models to explain the relationship between EMT tumor cells and these two major CSC subpopulations: a branching model in which EMT tumor cells can give rise to cycling or non-cycling CSCs, respectively, and a hierarchical model in which EMT tumor cells are first induced to become autophagic CSCs and, subsequently, cycling CSCs. Finally, we address the therapeutic consequences of these insights.

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          Most cited references 53

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          Identification of selective inhibitors of cancer stem cells by high-throughput screening.

          Screens for agents that specifically kill epithelial cancer stem cells (CSCs) have not been possible due to the rarity of these cells within tumor cell populations and their relative instability in culture. We describe here an approach to screening for agents with epithelial CSC-specific toxicity. We implemented this method in a chemical screen and discovered compounds showing selective toxicity for breast CSCs. One compound, salinomycin, reduces the proportion of CSCs by >100-fold relative to paclitaxel, a commonly used breast cancer chemotherapeutic drug. Treatment of mice with salinomycin inhibits mammary tumor growth in vivo and induces increased epithelial differentiation of tumor cells. In addition, global gene expression analyses show that salinomycin treatment results in the loss of expression of breast CSC genes previously identified by analyses of breast tissues isolated directly from patients. This study demonstrates the ability to identify agents with specific toxicity for epithelial CSCs.
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            A restricted cell population propagates glioblastoma growth following chemotherapy

            Glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) is the most common primary malignant brain tumor, with a median survival of about one year 1 . This poor prognosis is due to therapeutic resistance and tumor recurrence following surgical removal. Precisely how recurrence occurs is unknown. Using a genetically-engineered mouse model of glioma, we identify a subset of endogenous tumor cells that are the source of new tumor cells after the drug, temozolomide (TMZ), is administered to transiently arrest tumor growth. A Nestin-ΔTK-IRES-GFP (Nes-ΔTK-GFP) transgene that labels quiescent subventricular zone adult neural stem cells also labels a subset of endogenous glioma tumor cells. Upon arrest of tumor cell proliferation with TMZ, pulse-chase experiments demonstrate a tumor re-growth cell hierarchy originating with the Nes-ΔTK-GFP transgene subpopulation. Ablation of the GFP+ cells with chronic ganciclovir administration significantly arrested tumor growth and combined TMZ-ganciclovir treatment impeded tumor development. These data indicate the existence of a relatively quiescent subset of endogenous glioma cells that are responsible for sustaining long-term tumor growth through the production of transient populations of highly proliferative cells.
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              Epithelial-mesenchymal transition spectrum quantification and its efficacy in deciphering survival and drug responses of cancer patients

              Epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) is a reversible and dynamic process hypothesized to be co-opted by carcinoma during invasion and metastasis. Yet, there is still no quantitative measure to assess the interplay between EMT and cancer progression. Here, we derived a method for universal EMT scoring from cancer-specific transcriptomic EMT signatures of ovarian, breast, bladder, lung, colorectal and gastric cancers. We show that EMT scoring exhibits good correlation with previously published, cancer-specific EMT signatures. This universal and quantitative EMT scoring was used to establish an EMT spectrum across various cancers, with good correlation noted between cell lines and tumours. We show correlations between EMT and poorer disease-free survival in ovarian and colorectal, but not breast, carcinomas, despite previous notions. Importantly, we found distinct responses between epithelial- and mesenchymal-like ovarian cancers to therapeutic regimes administered with or without paclitaxelin vivo and demonstrated that mesenchymal-like tumours do not always show resistance to chemotherapy. EMT scoring is thus a promising, versatile tool for the objective and systematic investigation of EMT roles and dynamics in cancer progression, treatment response and survival.
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                Author and article information

                Contributors
                +3902503 1578 , fabmarcu@gmail.com
                p.ghezzi@bsms.ac.uk
                cristiano.rumio@unimi.it
                Journal
                Mol Cancer
                Mol. Cancer
                Molecular Cancer
                BioMed Central (London )
                1476-4598
                30 January 2017
                30 January 2017
                2017
                : 16
                Affiliations
                [1 ]Dipartimento di Scienze Farmacologiche e Biomolecolari, University of Milano, via Trentacoste 2, 20133 Milan, Italy
                [2 ]Brighton & Sussex Medical School, Trafford Centre, University of Sussex, Falmer, Brighton, BN1 9RY UK
                Article
                573
                10.1186/s12943-016-0573-8
                5282816
                28137290
                © The Author(s). 2017

                Open AccessThis article is distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License ( http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided you give appropriate credit to the original author(s) and the source, provide a link to the Creative Commons license, and indicate if changes were made. The Creative Commons Public Domain Dedication waiver ( http://creativecommons.org/publicdomain/zero/1.0/) applies to the data made available in this article, unless otherwise stated.

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                © The Author(s) 2017

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