Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are a small subpopulation of cancer cells that have increased resistance to conventional therapies and are capable of establishing metastasis. However, only a few biomarkers of CSCs have been identified. Here, we report that ganglioside GD2 (a glycosphingolipid) identifies a small fraction of cells in human breast cancer cell lines and patient samples that are capable of forming mammospheres and initiating tumors with as few as 10 GD2+ cells. In addition, the majority of GD2+ cells are also CD44hiCD24lo, the previously established CSC-associated cell surface phenotype. Gene expression analysis revealed that GD3 synthase (GD3S) is highly expressed in GD2+ as well as in CD44hiCD24lo cells and that interference with GD3S expression, either by shRNA or using a pharmacological inhibitor, reduced the CSC population and CSC-associated properties. GD3S knockdown completely abrogated tumor formation in vivo. Also, induction of epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT) in transformed human mammary epithelial cells (HMLER cells) dramatically increased GD2 as well as GD3S expression in these cells, suggesting a role of EMT in the origin of GD2+ breast CSCs. In summary, we identified GD2 as a new CSC-specific cell surface marker and GD3S as a potential therapeutic target for CSCs, with the possibility of improving survival and cure rates in patients with breast cancer.
Venkata Lokesh Battula, Yuexi Shi, Kurt W. Evans, Rui-Yu Wang, Erika L. Spaeth, Rodrigo O. Jacamo, Rudy Guerra, Aysegul A. Sahin, Frank C. Marini, Gabriel Hortobagyi, Sendurai A. Mani, Michael Andreeff
This file is in Adobe Acrobat (PDF) format. If you have not installed and configured the Adobe Acrobat Reader on your system.
PDFs are designed to be printed out and read, but if you prefer to read them online, you may find it easier if you increase the view size to 125%.
Many versions of the free Acrobat Reader do not allow Save. You must instead save the PDF from the JCI Online page you downloaded it from. PC users: Right-click on the Download link and choose the option that says something like "Save Link As...". Mac users should hold the mouse button down on the link to get these same options.