Telomere Science Library

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about the Nobel-Prize Winning Science of Telomere Biology

Morphological and Functional Characteristic of Senescent Cancer Cells.

Authors: Ewa E. Sikora, Grazyna G. Mosieniak, Malgorzata Alicja MA. Sliwinska
Published: 02/17/2016, Current drug targets


Cellular senescence is the state of permanent proliferation cessation. There are two types of cell senescence. One is replicative senescence, which relies on telomere length-dependent limit of cell divisions. The second is stress-induced premature senescence (SIPS) which is telomere- independent. Cell senescence is a barrier to cancer. Paradoxically senescent cells, which are metabolically active secrete factors which can be procancerogenic. The main culprit of cell senescence is DNA damage and DNA damage response. Although cancer cells frequently possess mutations in two main signalling pathways involved in cell senescence, namely p53/p21 and p16/Rb, they still preserve the ability to undergo DNA damage-induced senescence. Cancer cell senescence is a new promising target for anticancer therapy. It was shown that many types of cancer cells can undergo SIPS. Senescent cancer cells have generally the same features as normal cells, such as enlarged size, accumulation of DNA damage foci and increased activity of Senescence-Associated β- galactosidase. Moreover senescent cancer cells are frequently polyploid and it was shown that polyploidy might be connected with abnormal cell division, which leads to the appearance of small descendants. In this review we will focus on morphological hallmarks of senescent cancer cells as well as their functional capabilities, such as secretion, polyploidization, and stemness. We will also discuss links with autophagy, mitotic catastrophe and the propensity of senescent cells to regain proliferative activities. We would like to show the complexity of cancer cell phenotype arising after anticancer treatment and difficulties in interpretation of the experimental data.