JOURNAL ARTICLE

An IL6-correlated signature in serous epithelial ovarian cancer associates with growth factor response

Patrizia Pinciroli, Chiara Alberti, Marialuisa Sensi, Silvana Canevari, Antonella Tomassetti
BMC Genomics 2013, 14: 508
23889749

BACKGROUND: Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is one of the most lethal gynecological cancers; the majority of EOC is the serous histotype and diagnosed at advanced stage. IL6 is the cytokine that has been found most frequently associated with carcinogenesis and progression of serous EOCs. IL6 is a growth-promoting and anti-apoptotic factor, and high plasma levels of IL6 in advanced stage EOCs correlate with poor prognosis. The objective of the present study was to identify IL6 co-regulated genes and gene network/s in EOCs.

RESULTS: We applied bioinformatics tools on 7 publicly available data sets containing the gene expression profiles of 1262 EOC samples. By Pearson's correlation analysis we identified, in EOCs, an IL6-correlated gene signature containing 40 genes mainly associated with proliferation. 33 of 40 genes were also significantly correlated in low malignant potential (LMP) EOCs, while 7 genes, named C5AR1, FPR1, G0S2, IL8, KLF2, MMP19, and THBD were IL6-correlated only in advanced stage EOCs. Among the 40-gene signature EGFR ligand HBEGF, genes of the EGR family members and genes encoding for negative feedback regulators of growth factor signaling were included. The results obtained by Gene Set Enrichment and Ingenuity Pathway Analyses enabled the identification, respectively, of gene sets associated with 'early growth factor response' for the 40-gene signature, and a biological network related to 'thrombosis and cardiovascular disease' for the 7-gene signature. In agreement with these results, selected genes from the identified signatures were validated in vitro by real time RT-PCR in serous EOC cell lines upon stimulation with EGF.

CONCLUSIONS: Serous EOCs, independently of their aggressiveness, co-regulate IL6 expression together with that of genes associated to growth factor signaling, arguing for the hypothesis that common mechanism/s driven by EGFR ligands characterize both advanced-stage and LMP EOCs. Only advanced-stage EOCs appeared to be characterized by a scenario that involves genes which are so far associated with thrombosis and cardiovascular disease, thus suggesting that this pathway is implicated in the growth and/or spread of more aggressive tumors. We have discovered novel activated signaling pathways that drive the expression of IL6 and of co-regulated genes and are possibly involved in the pathobiology of EOCs.

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