Telomeric 3' overhangs can fold into a four-stranded DNA structure termed G-quadruplex (G4), a formation which inhibits telomerase. As telomerase activation is crucial for telomere maintenance in most cancer cells, several classes of G4 ligands have been designed to directly disrupt telomeric structure.
Polymer-based delivery systems offer innovative intra-cavity administration of drugs, with the potential to better target micro-deposits of cancer cells in brain parenchyma beyond the resected cavity. Here we evaluate clinical utility, toxicity and sustained drug release capability of a novel formulation of poly(lactic-co-glycolic acid) (PLGA)/poly(ethylene glycol) (PEG) microparticles.
Aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression contributes to tumor initiation and progression. Studies from a plethora of hematologic and solid tumors support the use of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) as potent anticancer agents. The mechanism(s) of HDACi-induced cancer growth inhibition and cell death are complex and incompletely elucidated. Here, we discuss erroneous epigenetic regulation of hTERT transcription in cancer cells and propose that alleviation of an improper acetylation-deacetylation balance at the hTERT promoter, is one mode by which HDACi induces anticancer effects. We conclude with some pertinent questions and future perspectives arising from the recent impetus in HDACi preclinical and early clinical studies, with particular attention to the cancer stem cell therapeutic paradigm and its relevance to tumor resistance.
Reliable model systems are needed to elucidate the role cancer stem cells (CSCs) play in pediatric brain tumor drug resistance. The majority of studies to date have focused on clinically distinct adult tumors and restricted tumor types. Here, the CSC component of 7 newly established primary pediatric cell lines (2 ependymomas, 2 medulloblastomas, 2 gliomas, and a CNS primitive neuroectodermal tumor) was thoroughly characterized. Comparison of DNA copy number with the original corresponding tumor demonstrated that genomic changes present in the original tumor, typical of that particular tumor type, were retained in culture. In each case, the CSC component was approximately 3-4-fold enriched in neurosphere culture compared with monolayer culture, and a higher capacity for multilineage differentiation was observed for neurosphere-derived cells. DNA content profiles of neurosphere-derived cells expressing the CSC marker nestin demonstrated the presence of cells in all phases of the cell cycle, indicating that not all CSCs are quiescent. Furthermore, neurosphere-derived cells demonstrated an increased resistance to etoposide compared with monolayer-derived cells, having lower initial DNA damage, potentially due to a combination of increased drug extrusion by ATP-binding cassette multidrug transporters and enhanced rates of DNA repair. Finally, orthotopic xenograft models reflecting the tumor of origin were established from these cell lines. In summary, these cell lines and the approach taken provide a robust model system that can be used to develop our understanding of the biology of CSCs in pediatric brain tumors and other cancer types and to preclinically test therapeutic agents.
Aberrant epigenetic regulation of gene expression contributes to tumor initiation and progression. Studies from a plethora of hematologic and solid tumors support the use of histone deacetylase inhibitors (HDACi) as potent anticancer agents. However, the mechanism of HDACi action with respect to the temporal order of induced cellular events is unclear. The present study investigates the anticancer effects of the HDACi trichostatin A in high-grade childhood brain tumor cells. Acute exposure to trichostatin A resulted in marked inhibition of cell proliferation, an increase in the proportion of G(2)-M cells, activation of H2A.X, and subsequent induction of apoptosis in the majority of cell lines. These phenotypic effects were associated with abrogation of telomerase activity and human telomerase reverse transcriptase downregulation in the majority of cell lines. In contrast, no cytotoxicity was observed in primary ependymal cells with respect to cilia function. Thus, inhibition of histone deacetylases leads to antiproliferative and proapoptotic effects in childhood brain tumor cells, likely to involve altered chromatin regulation at the human telomerase reverse transcriptase promoter.
Despite advances in surgery, radiation therapy, and chemotherapeutics, patients with malignant glioma have a dismal prognosis. The formations of aberrant tumour vasculature and glioma cell invasion are major obstacles for effective treatment. Angiogenesis is a key event in the progression of malignant gliomas, a process involving endothelial cell proliferation, migration, reorganization of extracellular matrix and tube formation. Such processes are regulated by the homeostatic balance between proangiogenic and antiangiogenic factors, most notably vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) produced by glioma cells. Current strategies targeting VEGF-VEGF receptor signal transduction pathways, though effective in normalizing abnormal tumor vasculature, eventually result in tumor resistance whereby a highly infiltrative and invasive phenotype may be adopted. Here we review recent anti-angiogenic therapy for malignant glioma and highlight implantable devices and nano/microparticles as next-generation methods for chemotherapeutic delivery. Intrinsic and adaptive modes of glioma resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy will be discussed with particular focus on the glioma stem cell paradigm.
Pediatric ependymomas are enigmatic tumors that continue to present a clinical management challenge despite advances in neurosurgery, neuroimaging techniques, and radiation therapy. Difficulty in predicting tumor behavior from clinical and histological factors has shifted the focus to the molecular and cellular biology of ependymoma in order to identify new correlates of disease outcome and novel therapeutic targets. This article reviews our current understanding of pediatric ependymoma biology and includes a meta-analysis of all comparative genomic hybridization (CGH) studies done on primary ependymomas to date, examining more than 300 tumors. From this meta-analysis and a review of the literature, we show that ependymomas in children exhibit a different genomic profile to those in adults and reinforce the evidence that ependymomas from different locations within the central nervous system (CNS) are distinguishable at a genomic level. Potential biological markers of prognosis in pediatric ependymoma are assessed and the ependymoma cancer stem cell hypothesis is highlighted with respect to tumor resistance and recurrence. We also discuss the shifting paradigm for treatment modalities in ependymoma that target molecular alterations in tumor-initiating cell populations.
Brain tumours are a diverse group of neoplasms that continue to present a formidable challenge in our attempt to achieve curable intervention. Our conceptual framework of human brain cancer has been redrawn in the current decade. There is a gathering acceptance that brain tumour formation is a phenotypic outcome of dysregulated neurogenesis, with tumours viewed as abnormally differentiated neural tissue. In relation, there is accumulating evidence that brain tumours, similar to leukaemia and many solid tumours, are organized as a developmental hierarchy which is maintained by a small fraction of cells endowed with many shared properties of tissue stem cells. Proof that neurogenesis persists throughout adult life, compliments this concept. Although the cancer cell of origin is unclear, the proliferative zones that harbour stem cells in the embryonic, post-natal and adult brain are attractive candidates within which tumour-initiation may ensue. Dysregulated, unlimited proliferation and an ability to bypass senescence are acquired capabilities of cancerous cells. These abilities in part require the establishment of a telomere maintenance mechanism for counteracting the shortening of chromosomal termini. A strategy based upon the synthesis of telomeric repeat sequences by the ribonucleoprotein telomerase, is prevalent in approximately 90% of human tumours studied, including the majority of brain tumours. This review will provide a developmental perspective with respect to normal (neurogenesis) and aberrant (tumourigenesis) cellular turnover, differentiation and function. Within this context our current knowledge of brain tumour telomere/telomerase biology will be discussed with respect to both its developmental and therapeutic relevance to the hierarchical model of brain tumourigenesis presented by the cancer stem cell paradigm.
Physiologically relevant pre-clinical ex vivo models recapitulating CNS tumor micro-environmental complexity will aid development of biologically-targeted agents. We present comprehensive characterization of tumor aggregates generated using the 3D Rotary Cell Culture System (RCCS).
In most sexually reproducing animals, replication and maintenance of telomeres occurs in the germ line and during early development in embryogenesis through the use of telomerase. Somatic cells generally do not maintain telomere sequences, and these cells become senescent in adults as telomeres shorten to a critical length. Some animals reproduce clonally and must therefore require adult somatic mechanisms for maintaining their chromosome ends. Here we study the telomere biology of planarian flatworms with apparently limitless regenerative capacity fueled by a population of highly proliferative adult stem cells. We show that somatic telomere maintenance is different in asexual and sexual animals. Asexual animals maintain telomere length somatically during reproduction by fission or when regeneration is induced by amputation, whereas sexual animals only achieve telomere elongation through sexual reproduction. We demonstrate that this difference is reflected in the expression and alternate splicing of the protein subunit of the telomerase enzyme. Asexual adult planarian stem cells appear to maintain telomere length over evolutionary timescales without passage through a germ-line stage. The adaptations we observe demonstrate indefinite somatic telomerase activity in proliferating stem cells during regeneration or reproduction by fission, and establish planarians as a pertinent model for studying telomere structure, function, and maintenance.
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