Jiong Li, Ph.D.

Funded by the V Foundation’s Virginia Vine event

Head and neck cancer is deadly because there are no effective drugs. Cisplatin is a commonly used drug for cancer treatment. However, patients with head and neck cancer usually develop resistance to this drug, which eventually leads to death. Although cisplatin can effectively kill most cancer cells, it is less effective in killing a specific type of cancer cells called cancer stem cells, which are responsible for the regrowth of the cancer after cancer therapy. Accordingly, inventing a new drug that can effectively kill cancer stem cells will improve patient survival. However, no drugs are available for killing cancer stem cells. Identifying key players maintaining cancer stem cell growth will help develop more effective drugs. Recently, we found a protein named FOSL1 is required to maintain cancer stem cell growth in head and neck cancer. However, the reason why FOSL1 keeps cancer stem cells growing is not fully understood. We also found a drug that can block FOSL1 function to prevent cancer stem cell growth. However, the efficiency is low. To increase the treatment effect, we developed a more potent compound based on this drug that can more effectively kill cancer stem cells 100 times in head and neck cancer. Our goals are: 1) using this compound to explore why FOSL1 can maintain cancer stem cell growth; 2) determine whether this compound can overwhelm cisplatin resistance using animal models. The knowledge obtained in this study will lead to developing more effective drugs to improve head and neck cancer patient survival.

Location: VCU Massey Cancer Center - Richmond
Proposal: FOSL1 degradation overcomes cisplatin resistance in HNSCC
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