Neuroendocrine and epithelial markers of small cell lung cancer

  • Jennifer Bryant

    Student thesis: Phd


    Small cell lung cancer (SCLC) is an extremely aggressive disease characterized by early metastasis and acquired resistance to therapy. SCLC is distinguished by its neuroendocrine (NE) component; the role of which is not fully understood in metastasis and response to therapy. Patients respond exceptionally well to first round chemotherapy; however, relapse with therapy-resistant tumours is virtually inevitable. Hypoxic regions within tumours can contribute towards metastasis and therapy resistance, highlighting hypoxia-targeted therapy as a novel approach for improving treatment for SCLC patients. Tumours are highly phenotypically heterogeneous, raising debate over the roles played by each cell type. Analysis of NE and epithelial markers in SCLC cell lines highlighted this inter-tumour heterogeneity. Further heterogeneity is displayed in SCLC xenograft tumours that show areas of dual epithelial and NE marker expression as well as regions negative for both markers. Irradiating xenograft tumours enhanced heterogeneity of the NE marker, pro-opiomelanocortin (POMC), which is ectopically secreted by a subset of SCLC tumours. Examining changes in marker expression post-therapy could provide vital information regarding transitions that can serve to guide therapy. SCLC is a highly metastatic disease. The role of the NE phenotype in human SCLC is not fully understood, but is considered essential for metastasis in murine models. Sub-cutaneous, intravenous and intra-splenic injection were carried out and resulted in no metastasis, spontaneous tumour generation and peripheral liver tumour growth, respectively. POMC expression was present and extremely heterogeneous within the liver, suggesting that NE properties are maintained in metastases; however, further work is necessary to develop a more consistent metastatic model that can be used to assess responses to therapy in a more clinically relevant setting. SCLC tumours proliferate rapidly and outgrow their nutrient and oxygen supplies, resulting in hypoxic conditions. Here, carbonic anhydrase IX (CA IX) becomes up-regulated in order to maintain pH levels suitable for survival. The specific CA IX inhibitor, S4, induces hypoxia-specific cell death in vitro and impairs tumour growth in vivo. This response is further accentuated by combining S4 with single or repeated cisplatin doses. Combination treatment reduced gene expression of S-phase kinase-associated protein (Skp2), associated with cisplatin resistance. CA IX inhibition combined with cisplatin chemotherapy therefore presents a novel treatment for SCLC tumours that could reduce therapy resistance. In summary, heterogeneity is extremely important when choosing treatment options for SCLC and must be considered when basing treatment on single biopsies. NE and epithelial markers are present within sub-cutaneous and liver tumours; however, a reliable multi-organ metastatic model is necessary to fully appreciate the role of these markers in the spread of SCLC. Hypoxic regions within sub-cutaneous xenograft tumours upregulate CA IX. Inhibition of this enzyme resulted in impaired tumour growth, particularly when used together with cisplatin. Combining CA IX inhibition with cisplatin presents a much-needed novel therapy for SCLC.
    Date of Award1 Aug 2015
    Original languageEnglish
    Awarding Institution
    • The University of Manchester
    SupervisorAnne White (Supervisor) & Kaye Williams (Supervisor)


    • Hypoxia
    • Xenograft
    • Metastasis
    • Carbonic anhydrase IX
    • Neuroendocrine
    • small cell lung cancer
    • Heterogeneity

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