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Glioblastoma (GBM) is a lethal primary brain tumor characterized by treatment resistance and inevitable tumor recurrence, both of which are driven by a subpopulation of GBM cancer stem-like cells (GSC) with tumorigenic and self-renewal properties. Despite having broad implications for understanding GSC phenotype, the determinants of upregulated DNA-damage response (DDR) and subsequent radiation resistance in GSC are unknown and represent a significant barrier to developing effective GBM treatments. In this study, we show that constitutive DDR activation and radiation resistance are driven by high levels of DNA replication stress (RS). CD133+ GSC exhibited reduced DNA replication velocity and a higher frequency of stalled replication forks than CD133- non-GSC in vitro; immunofluorescence studies confirmed these observations in a panel of orthotopic xenografts and human GBM specimens. Exposure of non-GSC to low-level exogenous RS generated radiation resistance in vitro, confirming RS as a novel determinant of radiation resistance in tumor cells. GSC exhibited DNA double-strand breaks, which colocalized with "replication factories" and RNA: DNA hybrids. GSC also demonstrated increased expression of long neural genes (>1 Mbp) containing common fragile sites, supporting the hypothesis that replication/transcription collisions are the likely cause of RS in GSC. Targeting RS by combined inhibition of ATR and PARP (CAiPi) provided GSC-specific cytotoxicity and complete abrogation of GSC radiation resistance in vitro These data identify RS as a cancer stem cell-specific target with significant clinical potential.Significance: These findings shed new light on cancer stem cell biology and reveal novel therapeutics with the potential to improve clinical outcomes by overcoming inherent radioresistance in GBM. Cancer Res; 78(17); 5060-71. ©2018 AACR.

Original publication




Journal article


Cancer Res

Publication Date





5060 - 5071


AC133 Antigen, Ataxia Telangiectasia Mutated Proteins, Carcinogenesis, Cell Line, Tumor, DNA Breaks, Double-Stranded, DNA Damage, DNA Replication, Glioblastoma, Humans, Neoplasm Recurrence, Local, Neoplastic Stem Cells, Phthalazines, Piperazines, Poly(ADP-ribose) Polymerase Inhibitors, Radiation Tolerance