Polyploid giant cancer cells (PGCC) are common in tumors and have been associated with resistance to cancer therapy, tumor relapse, malignancy, immunosuppression, metastasis, cancer stem cell production, and modulation of the tumor microenvironment. However, the molecular mechanisms that cause these cells to form are not yet known. In this study, we discover that Aurora kinases are synergistic determinants of a switch from the proliferative cell cycle to polyploid growth and multinucleation in lung cancer cell lines. When Aurora kinases were inhibited together, lung cancer cells uniformly grew into multinucleated PGCCs. These cells adopted an endoreplication in which the genome replicates, mitosis is omitted, and cells grow in size. Consequently, such cells continued to safely grow in the presence of antimitotic agents. These PGCC re-entered the proliferative cell cycle and grew in cell number when treatment was terminated. Thus, PGCC formation might represent a fundamental cellular response to Aurora kinase inhibitors and contributes to therapy resistance or tumor relapse. Significance: These findings provide a novel insight about how cancer cells respond to Aurora kinase inhibitors and identify a new mechanism responsible for resistance to these agents and other antimitotic drugs.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research