Nuclear morphology predicts cell survival to cisplatin chemotherapy

Chi Ju Kim, Anna LK Gonye, Kevin Truskowski, Cheng Fan Lee, Yoon Kyoung Cho, Robert H. Austin, Kenneth J. Pienta, Sarah R. Amend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

6 Citations (Scopus)


The emergence of chemotherapy resistance drives cancer lethality in cancer patients, with treatment initially reducing overall tumor burden followed by resistant recurrent disease. While molecular mechanisms underlying resistance phenotypes have been explored, less is known about the cell biological characteristics of cancer cells that survive to eventually seed the recurrence. To identify the unique phenotypic characteristics associated with survival upon chemotherapy exposure, we characterized nuclear morphology and function as prostate cancer cells recovered following cisplatin treatment. Cells that survived in the days and weeks after treatment and resisted therapy-induced cell death showed increasing cell size and nuclear size, enabled by continuous endocycling resulting in repeated whole genome doubling. We further found that cells that survive after therapy release were predominantly mononucleated and likely employ more efficient DNA damage repair. Finally, we show that surviving cancer cells exhibit a distinct nucleolar phenotype and increased rRNA levels. These data support a paradigm where soon after therapy release, the treated population mostly contains cells with a high level of widespread and catastrophic DNA damage that leads to apoptosis, while the minority of cells that have successful DDR are more likely to access a pro-survival state. These findings are consistent with accession of the polyaneuploid cancer cell (PACC) state, a recently described mechanism of therapy resistance and tumor recurrence. Our findings demonstrate the fate of cancer cells following cisplatin treatment and define key cell phenotypic characteristics of the PACC state. This work is essential for understanding and, ultimately, targeting cancer resistance and recurrence.

Original languageEnglish
Article number100906
JournalNeoplasia (United States)
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer therapy resistance
  • Nuclear morphology
  • Polyaneuploid cancer cell (PACC) state
  • Polyploidy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Cancer Research


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