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Interrogating Autophagy's Role in Resistance to CNL-Induced Cell Death in Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma

Presenters Name: 
Timothy Boyer
Co Presenters Name: 
Alexandra Hickman
Primary Research Mentor: 
Jeremy Shaw
Secondary Research Mentor: 
11:00 - 12:15
Time of Presentation: 
2019 - 11:00am to 12:15pm
Newcomb Hall Ballroom
Presentation Type: 
Presentations Academic Category: 
Grant Program Recipient: 
Not a Recipient

Head and Neck Squamous Cell Carcinoma (HNSCC) refers to cancers arising mainly from the squamous cells in the oral cavity and throat. This year, it is expected that over 65,000 people in the United States alone will develop HNSCC, and it will claim nearly 14,000 lives. Besides standard chemotherapy, radiation, and surgery which can often leave the patient disfigured, only one targeted therapy is available and has only shown moderate success. Thus, with the large number of patients afflicted with this disease and limited therapeutic options, further research is necessary to develop new and effective treatments. The Ceramide Nanoliposome (CNL) has been shown to have promise in killing HNSCC cells, but its precise mechanism remains unknown. Since CNLs have been shown to induce autophagy, a cellular recycling process exploited to help cancer cells survive, we explored the role autophagy may be playing in CNL-induced cell death in HNSCC. We first show that CNLs are able to induce the expression of multiple autophagic proteins in HNSCC cells. We then go on to find that not only is inducing autophagy able to protect HNSCC cells from death, but also that the inhibition of autophagy leads to greatly enhanced killing by CNLs in more resistant cell lines. Finally, we identify key targets which may be responsible for potentiating this synergistic effect. Taken together, this data highlights the role autophagy plays in CNL-induced cell death in HNSCC, gives key insights into its mechanism, and identifies potential novel therapeutic options.