Cellular senescence and cancer chemotherapy resistance

Ryan R. Gordon, Peter S. Nelson

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

116 Scopus citations


Innate or acquired resistance to cancer therapeutics remains an important area of biomedical investigation that has clear ramifications for improving cancer specific death rates. Importantly, clues to key resistance mechanisms may lie in the well-orchestrated and highly conserved cellular and systemic responses to injury and stress. Many anti-neoplastic therapies typically rely on DNA damage, which engages potent DNA damage response signaling pathways that culminate in apoptosis or growth arrest at checkpoints to allow for damage repair. However, an alternative cellular response, senescence, can also be initiated when challenged with these internal/external pressures and in ideal situations acts as a self-protecting mechanism. Senescence-induction therapies are an attractive concept in that they represent a normal, highly conserved and commonly invoked tumor-suppressing response to overwhelming genotoxic stress or oncogene activation. Yet, such approaches should ensure that senescence by-pass or senescence re-emergence does not occur, as emergent cells appear to have highly drug resistant phenotypes. Further, cell non-autonomous senescence responses may contribute to therapy-resistance in certain circumstances. Here we provide an overview of mechanisms by which cellular senescence plausibly contributes to therapy resistance and concepts by which senescence responses can be influenced to improve cancer treatment outcomes.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)123-131
Number of pages9
JournalDrug Resistance Updates
Issue number1-2
StatePublished - 2012
Externally publishedYes


  • DNA damage response
  • Microenvironment
  • Oncogene induced senescence

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research
  • Infectious Diseases
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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