The role of receptor tyrosine kinases in mediating glioblastoma resistance to radiotherapy and temozolomide
AuthorAreeb, Mohamed Zammam
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2020 Mohamed Zammam Areeb
Glioblastoma is the most common and aggressive form of malignant glioma. Currently, despite treatment with surgery followed by radiotherapy and the chemotherapeutic agent temozolomide (TMZ), mean patient survival time is approximately 12 months and the 5-year survival rate is close to 0%. A key factor for the dismal prognosis is tumour recurrence post-treatment which is largely due to: 1) the infiltrative nature of glioblastoma rendering complete resection impossible and 2) glioblastoma cell resistance to radio-chemotherapy. In this thesis we aimed to investigate the cellular mechanisms of receptor tyrosine kinases in conferring resistance to therapy. We first performed a literature search and found that almost all studies that advocated for the utility of targeting RTKs in overcoming treatment resistance did not employ both therapeutic agents comprising standard therapy – radiotherapy and TMZ. We next generated an in vitro glioblastoma resistant model via short-term treatment with radiotherapy and TMZ and found that these cells had down-regulated RTK activity in addition to down-regulated protein and gene expression of the commonly altered and studied epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) and MET receptor. After generating an in vitro glioblastoma recurrent model via long-term treatment we demonstrated that the surviving sub-population of cells also displayed down-regulated EGFR and MET expression compared to treatment naive cells. Furthermore, we also showed that the resistant cell population already pre-exists within the parental population which suggests the possibility of pre-emptively targeting the inherently resistant population. Interestingly, we also observed differential microRNA expression in radiotherapy- and TMZ-treated cells and, specifically, found that miR-221 confers resistance to glioblastoma cells and is capable of down-regulating EGFR expression. We validated this relationship in a human cohort of 105 primary and 36 recurrent glioblastoma patients, showing a significant inverse relationship between miR-221 and EGFR. Consistently, we showed that high miR-221 and low-EGFR expression at recurrence is associated with a poorer prognosis. Lastly, we investigated the relevance of epithelial to mesenchymal transition markers after observing that migration rates were maintained in resistant cells despite low EGFR and MET. Both N-Cadherin and CD44 were found to be highly expressed in treatment-resistant cells and the down-regulation of AKT activity with wortmannin led to reduced levels of EMT markers, suggesting that AKT is a regulator of key EMT transcription factors that are specific to N-Cadherin and CD44. The thesis gains it significance by providing an explanation to the failure of RTK inhibitors in the glioblastoma clinic by suggesting that standard radio-chemotherapy down-regulates RTK activity and expression, thereby diminishing any theorised benefit of targeting RTKs. Furthermore, the thesis advocates for microRNAs to be crucial regulators of therapy resistance, potential biomarkers and targetable molecules for the clinic.
KeywordsCancer; Glioblastoma; Molecular Biology; Cell signalling; MicroRNA; Receptor tyrosine kinase; Temozolomide
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