Investigating Novel Targets to Inhibit Cancer Cell Survival

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Virginia Tech


Cancer remains the second leading cause of death in the United States and the world, despite years of research and the development of different treatments. One reason for this is cancer cells are able to survive through adaptation to their environment and aberrantly activated growth signaling. As such, developing new therapies that overcome these hurdles are necessary to combat cancer. Previous work in our laboratory using RNA interference screening identified genes that regulate the survival of glioblastoma (GBM) or autophagy in chronic myelogenous leukemia (CML) cancer cells. One screen identified Phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisophosphate 3-kinase catalytic subunit beta (PIK3CB) in the family of Phosphatidylinositol 3-kinases (PI3K) as a survival kinase gene in GBM. Work contained in this dissertation set out to study PIK3CB mediated GBM cell survival. We report that only PIK3CB, in its family of other PI3K genes, is a biomarker for GBM recurrence and is selectively important for GBM cell survival. Another screen identified the long non-coding RNA, Linc00467, as a gene that regulates autophagy in CML. Autophagy is a dynamic survival process used by all cells, benign and cancerous, where cellular components are broken down and re-assimilated to sustain survival. Work contained in this dissertation set out to characterize the role that Linc00467 serves in regulating autophagy in a myriad of cancers. Collectively our data have showed Linc00467 to actively repress levels of autophagy in cancer cells. Further, our data revealed an important role for Linc00467 in regulating the stability of the autophagy regulating protein serine-threonine kinase 11 (STK11). Because of the unique role that Linc00467 serves in regulating autophagy we renamed it as, autophagy regulating long intergenic noncoding RNA or ARLINC. Taken together the work in this dissertation unveils the inner-workings of two important cancer cell survival pathways and shows their potential for development into therapeutic targets to treat cancer.



cancer, glioblastoma, tumor recurrence, PI3K, chronic myelogenous leukemia, autophagy, non-coding RNAs, drug resistance