Date of Graduation


Document Type

Dissertation (PhD)

Program Affiliation

Molecular Carcinogenesis

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Dean G. Tang

Committee Member

Ellen R. Richie

Committee Member

Donna F. Kusewitt

Committee Member

Feng Wang-Johanning

Committee Member

Taiping Chen


Prostate cancer (PCa) is one of the leading malignancies affecting men in the Western world. Although tremendous effort has been made towards understanding PCa development and developing clinical treatments in the past decades, the exact mechanisms of PCa are still not clearly understood. Emerging evidence has postulated that a population of stem cell-like cells inside a tumor, termed ‘cancer stem cells (CSCs)’, may be the cells responsible for tumor initiation, progression, recurrence, metastasis and therapy resistance. Like CSC studies in other cancer types, it has been reported that PCa also contains CSCs. However, there remain several unresolved questions that need to be clarified. First, the relationship between prostate CSCs (PCSCs) and therapy resistance (chemo- and radio-) is not known. Herein, we have found that not all CSCs are drug-tolerant, and not all drug-tolerant cells are CSCs. Second, whether primary human PCa (HPCa) actually contain PCSCs remains unclear, due to the well-known fact that we have yet to establish a reliable assay system that can reproducibly and faithfully reconstitute tumor regeneration from single HPCa cells. Herein, after utilizing more than 114 HPCa samples we have provided evidence that immortalized bone marrow-derived stromal cells (Hs5) can help dissociated HPCa cells generate undifferentiated tumors in immunodeficient NOD/SCID-IL2Rγ-/- mice, and the undifferentiated PCa cells seem to have a survival advantage to generate tumors. Third, the evolution of PCa from androgen dependent to the lethally castration resistant (CRPC) stage remains enigmatic, and the cells responsible for CRPC development have not been identified. Herein, we have found a putative cell population, ALDH+CD44+α2β1+ PCa cells that may represent a cell-of-origin for CRPC. Taken together, our work has improved our understanding of PCSC properties, possibly highlighting a potential therapeutic target for CRPC.


prostate cancer stem cells, drug tolerance, tumor reconstitution, castration resistance