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Title: Identification and characterisation of the role of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in cancer stem cell biology : a comparative study
Author: Hurst, Emma Allan
ISNI:       0000 0004 7224 0804
Awarding Body: University of Edinburgh
Current Institution: University of Edinburgh
Date of Award: 2017
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Cancer is a stem cell disease and populations of cancer stem cells (CSCs) are evident in many cancer types. CSCs exhibit similarities to normal embryonic and adult stem cells: they are able to self-renew and have the potential to give rise to a diverse array of differentiated progeny. CSCs are responsible for driving tumourigenesis and metastasis, and are inherently resistant to chemotherapy and radiotherapy. This cell population is enriched after treatment and, as a result of their tumourigenic capability, can re-populate tumour growth resulting in patient relapse, often with increased chemotherapeutic resistance. Increasing evidence supports that only by targeting this population of cells will a cure for cancer be possible. Hence, it is essential to identify pathways within CSC populations that can be targeted therapeutically. Cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) is an enzyme associated with inflammation and disease, and is upregulated in many cancers types. The COX-2 / prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) signalling pathway is associated with increased tumour growth, metastasis, immune evasion and overall worse patient prognosis. Recent evidence has identified that COX-2 is further upregulated in CSC populations isolated from cancer cell lines. Previously, we have shown that inhibition of COX-2 reduces CSC sphere-forming ability, a characteristic of stem cell self-renewal, suggesting a role for COX-2 in maintaining CSC populations. This work was carried out in both human and canine osteosarcoma cell lines with similar results. Cancer in dogs is a major health concern among an aging pet population. Many cancer types exhibit similarities between these species, suggesting that naturally occurring canine cancer may be a potential model for the human disease. The aim of this PhD project was to investigate the role of COX-2 in CSCs in a comparative cancer study. CSCs that express stem cell markers have been isolated from a panel of canine and human cancer cell lines including, mammary carcinoma and transitional cell carcinoma of the urinary bladder. CSCs over-express COX-2 compared to non-CSCs, therefore to determine the role of COX-2 in CSC biology the selective COX-2 inhibitor mavacoxib, a non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drug currently licenced for treating osteoarthritis in dogs, was utilised. Our results demonstrate that inhibiting COX-2 has a multifaceted impact on CSC biology, including reducing self-renewal capacity, clonogenicity, proliferation, migration, invasion and in vivo tumourigenicity. To confirm that mavacoxib is mediating these CSC-specific effects via inhibition of COX-2 rather than through unknown off-target effects, we generated canine specific-small interfering RNA to specifically reduce gene expression of COX-2. Our results confirm that mavacoxib exerts its anti-tumour effects via inhibition of COX-2. This project has highlighted a plethora of CSC-specific COX-2 effects, and to gain further insight we compared the global gene expression profiles of CSCs compared to non- CSCs isolated from a canine bladder carcinoma cell line. This data revealed that both mavacoxib and COX-2 specific siRNA target similar pathways within the two cell populations, confirming that mavacoxib exerts its effects in a COX-2 dependent manner. Interestingly, mavacoxib reduced the expression of a number of stemness related genes in the CSC population, including NOTCH and Wnt, suggesting that mavacoxib can inhibit CSC related pathways. Our overall results are comparable between canine and human cancer cell lines supporting the concept of naturally occurring tumours in dogs as models for the human disease. In conclusion, COX-2 plays an important role not only in maintaining CSC populations but also in their function, and targeting COX-2 in CSCs may provide therapeutic benefit.
Supervisor: Argyle, David Sponsor: Not available
Qualification Name: Thesis (Ph.D.) Qualification Level: Doctoral
EThOS ID:  DOI: Not available
Keywords: cancer stem cells ; Cyclooxygenase-2 ; COX-2 ; mavacoxib