Conversion of differentiated cancer cells into cancer stem-like cells in a glioblastoma model after primary chemotherapy

Cell Death Differ. 2014 Jul;21(7):1119-31. doi: 10.1038/cdd.2014.31. Epub 2014 Mar 7.


Glioblastoma multiforme patients have a poor prognosis due to therapeutic resistance and tumor relapse. It has been suggested that gliomas are driven by a rare subset of tumor cells known as glioma stem cells (GSCs). This hypothesis states that only a few GSCs are able to divide, differentiate, and initiate a new tumor. It has also been shown that this subpopulation is more resistant to conventional therapies than its differentiated counterpart. In order to understand glioma recurrence post therapy, we investigated the behavior of GSCs after primary chemotherapy. We first show that exposure of patient-derived as well as established glioma cell lines to therapeutic doses of temozolomide (TMZ), the most commonly used antiglioma chemotherapy, consistently increases the GSC pool over time both in vitro and in vivo. Secondly, lineage-tracing analysis of the expanded GSC pool suggests that such amplification is a result of a phenotypic shift in the non-GSC population to a GSC-like state in the presence of TMZ. The newly converted GSC population expresses markers associated with pluripotency and stemness, such as CD133, SOX2, Oct4, and Nestin. Furthermore, we show that intracranial implantation of the newly converted GSCs in nude mice results in a more efficient grafting and invasive phenotype. Taken together, these findings provide the first evidence that glioma cells exposed to chemotherapeutic agents are able to interconvert between non-GSCs and GSCs, thereby replenishing the original tumor population, leading to a more infiltrative phenotype and enhanced chemoresistance. This may represent a potential mechanism for therapeutic relapse.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / pharmacology*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating / therapeutic use
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Brain Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Transformation, Neoplastic / drug effects*
  • Dacarbazine / analogs & derivatives*
  • Dacarbazine / pharmacology
  • Dacarbazine / therapeutic use
  • Glioblastoma / drug therapy
  • Glioblastoma / pathology*
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Mice, Nude
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / physiology*
  • Phenotype
  • Temozolomide
  • Xenograft Model Antitumor Assays


  • Antineoplastic Agents, Alkylating
  • Basic Helix-Loop-Helix Transcription Factors
  • endothelial PAS domain-containing protein 1
  • Dacarbazine
  • Temozolomide