Stochastic cancer progression driven by non-clonal chromosome aberrations.
ABSTRACT Cancer research has previously focused on the identification of specific genes and pathways responsible for cancer initiation and progression based on the prevailing viewpoint that cancer is caused by a stepwise accumulation of genetic aberrations. This viewpoint, however, is not consistent with the clinical finding that tumors display high levels of genetic heterogeneity and distinctive karyotypes. We show that chromosomal instability primarily generates stochastic karyotypic changes leading to the random progression of cancer. This was accomplished by tracing karyotypic patterns of individual cells that contained either defective genes responsible for genome integrity or were challenged by onco-proteins or carcinogens that destabilized the genome. Analysis included the tracing of patterns of karyotypic evolution during different stages of cellular immortalization. This study revealed that non-clonal chromosomal aberrations (NCCAs) (both aneuploidy and structural aberrations) and not recurrent clonal chromosomal aberrations (CCAs) are directly linked to genomic instability and karyotypic evolution. Discovery of "transitional CCAs" during in vitro immortalization clearly demonstrates that karyotypic evolution in solid tumors is not a continuous process. NCCAs and their dynamic interplay with CCAs create infinite genomic combinations leading to clonal diversity necessary for cancer cell evolution. The karyotypic chaos observed within the cell crisis stage prior to establishment of the immortalization further supports the ultimate importance of genetic aberrations at the karyotypic or genome level. Therefore, genomic instability generated NCCAs are a key driving force in cancer progression. The dynamic relationship between NCCAs and CCAs provides a mechanism underlying chromosomal based cancer evolution and could have broad clinical applications.
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ABSTRACT: Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) is the sixth most common cancer worldwide, and is responsible for a quarter of a million deaths annually. The survival rate for HNSCC patients is poor, showing only minor improvement in the last three decades. Despite new surgical techniques and chemotherapy protocols, tumor resistance to chemotherapy remains a significant challenge for HNSCC patients. Numerous mechanisms underlie chemoresistance, including genetic and epigenetic alterations in cancer cells that may be acquired during treatment and activation of mitogenic signaling pathways, such as nuclear factor kappa-light-chain-enhancer-of activated B cell, that cause reduced apoptosis. In addition to dysfunctional molecular signaling, emerging evidence reveals involvement of cancer stem cells (CSCs) in tumor development and in tumor resistance to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. These observations have sparked interest in understanding the mechanisms involved in the control of CSC function and fate. Post-translational modifications of histones dynamically influence gene expression independent of alterations to the DNA sequence. Recent findings from our group have shown that pharmacological induction of post-translational modifications of tumor histones dynamically modulates CSC plasticity. These findings suggest that a better understanding of the biology of CSCs in response to epigenetic switches and pharmacological inhibitors of histone function may directly translate to the development of a mechanism-based strategy to disrupt CSCs. In this review, we present and discuss current knowledge on epigenetic modifications of HNSCC and CSC response to DNA methylation and histone modifications. In addition, we discuss chromatin modifications and their role in tumor resistance to therapy.
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ABSTRACT: A century of research has established that cancers arise from tissues exposed to carcinogens only after long latencies of years to decades and have individual clonal karyotypes. Since speciation from known precursors also depends on long latencies and new species also have individual karyotypes, we and others have recently proposed that carcinogenesis is a form of speciation. According to this theory karyotypic evolutions generate new cancer species from normal cells as follows: Carcinogens induce aneuploidy (Figure 1). By unbalancing thousands of genes aneuploidy automatically destabilizes the karyotype and thus catalyzes random karyotypic variations. Selections of variants with proliferative phenotypes form non-clonal hyperplasias with persistently varying karyotypes. Very rare karyotypic variations form new cancer species with individual clonal karyotypes. Despite destabilization by the resulting congenital aneuploidies, cancer karyotypes are stabilized within narrow margins of variation by clonal selections for cancer-specific autonomy. Because all non-cancerous aneuploidies are unstable, all aneusomies of prospective cancers are joined in single-steps, rather than gradually. Since this mechanism is very inefficient, it predicts long latent periods from carcinogens to cancers and individual clonal cancer karyotypes. Here we have tested the predicted roles of karyotypic evolutions during the time course of carcinogenesis in an established experimental system. In this system injection of nitrosourea induces in female rats non-invasive mammary hyperplasias ("tumors") after two or more months, and invasive carcinomas after six or more months. Accordingly four specific predictions were tested: (1) Invasive cancers are late and carry individual clonal karyotypes and phenotypes, (2) Persistent hyperplasias carry non-clonal karyotypes, (3) Non-clonal hyperplasias generate clonal cancers spontaneously but rarely, (4) Cancer-karyotypes arise with all individual clonal aneusomies in single-steps. All four predictions were experimentally confirmed. Our results along with the literature reveal a coherent karyotypic mechanism of carcinogenesis: Carcinogens induce aneuploidy. The inherent instability of aneuploidy automatically catalyzes new karyotypic variations. Aneuploid karyotypes with proliferative phenotypes form varying non-clonal hyperplasias. Rare variations form cancer species with individual clonal karyotypes, which are stabilized by clonal selection for autonomy. The low odds of this mechanism explain the long latencies of carcinogenesis, the individuality and karyotypic clonality of cancers.Molecular Cytogenetics 01/2014; 7(1):71. DOI:10.1186/s13039-014-0071-x · 2.66 Impact Factor