Document Type


Date of Degree

Summer 2012

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Molecular and Cellular Biology

First Advisor

Giangrande, Paloma H.

First Committee Member

Demali, Kris A.

Second Committee Member

Klingelhutz, Aloysius J.

Third Committee Member

Quelle, Dawn E.

Fourth Committee Member

Salem, Aliasger K.


Two of the most commonly diagnosed malignancies in men and women are cancers of the prostate and breast, respectively. Though many advances have been made in reducing the overall morbidity and mortality associated with these diseases, the high number of deaths that still occur emphasizes the need for safer and more effective therapeutic options. To this end, our lab was the first to describe the use of RNA aptamers to specifically deliver cytotoxic siRNAs to PSMA positive prostate cancer cells. This reagent, termed an aptamer-siRNA chimera, was shown to be an effective targeted cancer therapeutic upon intratumoral injection in a pre-clinical, xenograft, mouse model of prostate cancer. However, further work was needed to realize the full clinical potential of RNA aptamer-siRNA chimeras as a targeted therapeutic modality.

The thesis laid out herein, describes work performed to optimize aptamer-siRNA technology in order to enable clinical translation and to increase the scope of this technology (i.e. increase the cancer types for which this technology can be used). We describe several improvements to our first generation PSMA aptamer-siRNA chimera which, include: decreasing the overall nucleotide content to aid in chemical synthesis, altering the siRNA structure to improve RNAi processing and addition of a 20kDa PEG moiety to increase pharmacokinetics/pharmacodynamics. All of these modifications lead to a more effective reagent at lower doses. Importantly, we demonstrate that our optimized reagent is now effective upon systemic administration in an in vivo mouse model of prostate cancer. In addition, we have also identified new aptamers to the receptor tyrosine kinase (RTK) EphA2. Given the broad expression of this RTK on various cancers, this work seeks to extend the scope of targeted aptamer therapeutics beyond that of prostate cancer. Finally, we demonstrate a novel aptamer selection methodology termed cell-internalization SELEX. This approach allowed us to select for aptamers that specifically targeted and internalize into HER2 expressing cells. This allowed us to readily translate all identified aptamers into aptamer-siRNA chimeras. We show that all chimeras tested were able to sensitize HER2+ breast cancer cells to low- dose cisplatin treatment.

Taken together, the work described in this thesis significantly advances the field of targeted cancer therapeutics. Importantly, by demonstrating cancer cell-specific delivery of siRNA, our technology overcomes one of the most significant hurdles to the therapeutic use of siRNAs, delivery.


xv, 187 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 163-187).


This thesis has been optimized for improved web viewing. If you require the original version, contact the University Archives at the University of Iowa:


Copyright 2012 Justin Patrick Dassie

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