Defense Date


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Science


Pharmacology & Toxicology

First Advisor

David Gewirtz


Cancer is the second most common cause of death in the US. The most frequently observed cancer type in women is breast cancer. A special type of breast cancer is triple negative (TNBC) cancer that is characterized by lacking three receptors: estrogen, progesterone and human epithelial growth factor (HER 2). The HS578t breast cell line is a model of TNBC that also has a mutation of the p53 protein. Ionizing radiation is used widely in the clinic to debulk tumors before surgery as well as post-surgery to eliminate residual tumor cells outside the surgical field. Previous studies from our laboratory showed that inhibition of autophagy does sensitize p53 wild type MCF-7 and ZR-75 breast tumor cells to radiation. However, this is not necessarily the response in all breast cell lines. The Hs578t cells did not appear to be sensitized to radiation after inhibition of autophagy using chloroquine as a pharmacological inhibitor. The present study was designed to build upon these previous findings and further confirm that the Hs578t breast cell line could not be sensitized to radiation through autophagy inhibition. Time course studies showed a reduction of viable cell number upon irradiation of Hs578t breast tumor cells and that both autophagy and senescence were induced. Acridine orange staining was used to examine the acidic vacuole formation while β-galactosidase staining indicated the promotion of senescence. Flow cytometry was used to quantify both autophagy and senescence. Inhibition of autophagy using pharmacological inhibitors such as ammonium chloride, or genetic silencing of autophagy by beclin1, which is a protein initiator of autophagy, did not sensitize Hs578t breast tumor cells to irradiation. It shows from these studies that autophagy is not necessarily cytoprotective in all breast cancer cell lines, which should be considered in current clinical trials designed to sensitize tumor cells to chemotherapy and radiation through inhibition of autophagy.


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Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

May 2014