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Elimination of SOX2/OCT4-Associated Prostate Cancer Stem Cells Blocks Tumor Development and Enhances Therapeutic Response

  • vaddi, prasanna kumar
  • stamnes, mark a.
  • cao, huojun
  • chen, songhai
Publication Date
Sep 08, 2019
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SOX2 and OCT4 are key regulators of embryonic stem cell pluripotency. They are overexpressed in prostate cancers and have been associated with cancer stem cell (CSC) properties. However, reliable tools for detecting and targeting SOX2/OCT4-overexpressing cells are lacking, limiting our understanding of their roles in prostate cancer initiation, progression, and therapeutic resistance. Here, we show that a fluorescent reporter called SORE6 can identify SOX2/OCT4-overexpressing prostate cancer cells. Among tumor cells, the SORE6 reporter identified a small fraction with CSC hallmarks: rapid self-renewal, the capability to form tumors and metastasize, and resistance to chemotherapies. Transcriptome and biochemical analyses identified PI3K/AKT signaling as critical for maintaining the SORE6+ population. Moreover, a SORE6-driven herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase (TK) expression construct could selectively ablate SORE6+ cells in tumors, blocking tumor initiation and progression, and sensitizing tumors to chemotherapy. This study demonstrates a key role of SOX2/OCT4-associated prostate cancer stem cells in tumor development and therapeutic resistance, and identifies the SORE6 reporter system as a useful tool for characterizing CSCs functions in a native tumor microenvironment.

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