Publications by authors named "Michelle K Y Siu"

41 Publications

PDK1 promotes ovarian cancer metastasis by modulating tumor-mesothelial adhesion, invasion, and angiogenesis via α5β1 integrin and JNK/IL-8 signaling.

Oncogenesis 2020 Feb 18;9(2):24. Epub 2020 Feb 18.

Departments of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, University of Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China, Hong Kong, Hong Kong.

Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological malignancies owing to the lack of definitive symptoms until development of widespread metastases. Identification of novel prognostic and therapeutic targets is therefore an urgent need to improve survival. Here, we demonstrated high expression of the mitochondrial gatekeeping enzyme, pyruvate dehydrogenase kinase 1 (PDK1), in both clinical samples and cell lines of ovarian cancer. PDK1 expression was significantly associated with metastasis, reduced chemosensitivity, and poor overall and disease-free survival, and further highlighted as an independent prognostic factor. Silencing of PDK1 retarded lactate production, ovarian cancer cell adhesion, migration, invasion, and angiogenesis, and consequently metastasis, concomitant with decreased α5β1 integrin expression. Phospho-kinase array profiling and RNA sequencing analyses further revealed reduction of JNK activation and IL-8 expression in PDK1-depleted cells. Conversely, PDK1 overexpression promoted cell adhesion via modulation of α5β1 integrins, along with cell migration, invasion, and angiogenesis through activation of JNK/IL-8 signaling. PDK1 depletion additionally hindered tumor growth and dissemination in nude mice in vivo. Importantly, PDK1 levels were upregulated upon treatment with conditioned medium from omental tissues, which in turn promoted metastasis. Our findings suggest that PDK1, which is regulated by the tumor microenvironment, controls lactate production and promotes ovarian cancer cell metastasis via modulation of α5β1 integrin and JNK/IL-8 signaling. To our knowledge, this is the first report to demonstrate an association between PDK1 and survival in patients with ovarian cancer, supporting its efficacy as a valuable prognostic marker and therapeutic molecular target for the disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/s41389-020-0209-0DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7028730PMC
February 2020

Hexokinase 2 Regulates Ovarian Cancer Cell Migration, Invasion and Stemness via FAK/ERK1/2/MMP9/NANOG/SOX9 Signaling Cascades.

Cancers (Basel) 2019 Jun 12;11(6). Epub 2019 Jun 12.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

Metabolic reprogramming is a common phenomenon in cancers. Thus, glycolytic enzymes could be exploited to selectively target cancer cells in cancer therapy. Hexokinase 2 (HK2) converts glucose to glucose-6-phosphate, the first committed step in glucose metabolism. Here, we demonstrated that HK2 was overexpressed in ovarian cancer and displayed significantly higher expression in ascites and metastatic foci. HK2 expression was significantly associated with advanced stage and high-grade cancers, and was an independent prognostic factor. Functionally, knockdown of HK2 in ovarian cancer cell lines and ascites-derived tumor cells hindered lactate production, cell migration and invasion, and cell stemness properties, along with reduced FAK/ERK1/2 activation and metastasis- and stemness-related genes. 2-DG, a glycolysis inhibitor, retarded cell migration and invasion and reduced stemness properties. Inversely, overexpression of HK2 promoted cell migration and invasion through the FAK/ERK1/2/MMP9 pathway, and enhanced stemness properties via the FAK/ERK1/2/NANOG/SOX9 cascade. HK2 abrogation impeded in vivo tumor growth and dissemination. Notably, ovarian cancer-associated fibroblast-derived IL-6 contributed to its up-regulation. In conclusion, HK2, which is regulated by the tumor microenvironment, controls lactate production and contributes to ovarian cancer metastasis and stemness regulation via FAK/ERK1/2 signaling pathway-mediated MMP9/NANOG/SOX9 expression. HK2 could be a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target for ovarian cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/cancers11060813DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6627345PMC
June 2019

Estrogen receptor modulators genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 inhibit cell migration, invasion, proliferation and sphere formation via modulation of FAK and PI3K/AKT signaling in ovarian cancer.

Cancer Cell Int 2018 1;18:65. Epub 2018 May 1.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong, 6/F Professorial Block, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, SAR China.

Background: Ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynaecological malignancy. Chemotherapy is the main stay of treatment for metastatic disease, with modest response rates but significant side effects. Therefore, there is a need for alternative therapies that can control the disease while offering good quality of life. Ovarian cancer cells express both estrogen receptor subtypes (ERα and ERβ). There is growing evidence that ERβ is anti-oncogenic. Genistein and daidzein are phytoestrogens found in soybeans and they display higher affinity to bind ERβ. ERB-041 is a potent selective ERβ agonist. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effects of genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 on ovarian cancer.

Methods: Ovarian cancer cell lines were treated with genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 in pharmacological doses. Cell migration, invasion, proliferation, cell cycle arrest, apoptosis and sphere formation were assessed by Transwell migration and invasion assays, XTT assay, focus formation, flow cytometry and sphere formation assay, respectively. Immunoblotting analysis was performed to determine the downstream signaling pathways.

Results: We found that genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 significantly inhibited ovarian cancer cell migration, invasion, proliferation, as well as induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis. Significantly inhibitory effect on the size and number of sphere formed in genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 treated cells was also demonstrated. Moreover, genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 treatment reduced p-FAK, p-PI3K, p-AKT, p-GSK3β, p21 or cyclin D1 expression in ovarian cancer cells.

Conclusion: Genistein, daidzein and ERB-041 decreased ovarian cancer cell migration, invasion, proliferation and sphere formation, and induced cell cycle arrest and apoptosis with altered FAK and PI3K/AKT/GSK signaling and p21/cyclin D1 expression, suggesting their roles on ovarian cancer cell metastasis, tumorigenesis and stem-like properties and their potential as alternative therapies for ovarian cancer patients.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12935-018-0559-2DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5930957PMC
May 2018

Differential expression of estrogen receptor subtypes and variants in ovarian cancer: effects on cell invasion, proliferation and prognosis.

BMC Cancer 2017 Aug 31;17(1):606. Epub 2017 Aug 31.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, HKSAR, China.

Background: Due to the presence of both classical estrogen receptor (ERα) and another ER subtype (ERβ) in ovarian cancer, hormonal treatment is an attractive option. However, response to tamoxifen in ovarian cancer is modest. The presence of ERβ variants further complicated the issue. We have recently shown that specifically targeting ER subtypes using selective ER modulators showed opposing functions of ER subtypes on cell growth. In the present study, the clinical significance of ERα and ERβ variants (β1, β2 and β5) and the functional effects of ERβ2 and ERβ5 in ovarian cancer was investigated.

Methods: ERα, ERβ1, ERβ2 and ERβ5 expression were evaluated by immunohistochemistry in 106 ovarian cancer tissues. The association between ERs expression and clinicopathological parameters or prognosis was analyzed. Ectopic expression of ERβ2 and ERβ5 followed by functional assays were performed in ovarian cancer cell lines in order to detect their effects on cell invasion and proliferation.

Results: We found significantly higher nuclear (n)ERα and nERβ5 and lower cytoplasmic (c)ERα expression in advanced cancers. Significantly lower ERβ1 expression was also detected in high grade cancers. Significant loss of nERα and cERβ2 expression were observed in clear cell histological subtypes. Higher nERβ5 and lower cERβ5 expression were associated with serous/clear cell subtypes, poor disease-free and overall survival. Positive cERα and higher cERβ1 expression were significantly associated with better disease-free and overall survival. Furthermore, we found nERβ5 as an independent prognostic factor for overall survival. Functionally, overexpression of ERβ5 enhanced ovarian cancer cell migration, invasion and proliferation via FAK/c-Src activation whereas ERβ2 induced cell migration and invasion.

Conclusions: Since tamoxifen binds to both ERα and ERβ1 which appear to bear opposing oncogenic roles, the histotypes-specific expression pattern of ERs indicates that personalized treatment for women based on ERs expression using selective estrogen receptor modulators may improve response rate. This study also suggests nERβ5 as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target in ovarian cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/s12885-017-3601-1DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC5579953PMC
August 2017

p21-Activated Kinases 1, 2 and 4 in Endometrial Cancers: Effects on Clinical Outcomes and Cell Proliferation.

PLoS One 2015 28;10(7):e0133467. Epub 2015 Jul 28.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, HKSAR, China.

p21-activated kinases (Paks) are serine/threonine protein kinases involved in biological events linked to malignant tumor progression. In this study, expression of Pak1, p-Pak2 Ser20, Pak4, pPak4 Ser474 in 21 normal endometrium, 16 hyperplastic endometrium without atypia, 17 atypical complex hyperplasia and 67 endometrial cancers was assessed by immunohistochemistry and correlated with clinicopathological parameters. We also accessed the proliferative role and downstream targets of Pak1 in endometrial cancer. Pak1 was expressed in cytoplasm whereas Pak4 and p-Pak4 were expressed in both cytoplasm and nucleus of endometrial tissues. In normal endometrium, significantly higher Pak1 (P = 0.028) and cytoplasmic p-Pak2 (P = 0.048) expression was detected in proliferative endometrium than secretory endometrium. Pak1, cytoplasmic and nuclear Pak4 and nuclear p-Pak4 was significantly overexpressed in endometrial cancer when compared to atrophic endometrium (all P<0.05). Moreover, type I endometrioid carcinomas showed significantly higher Pak1 expression than type II non-endometrioid carcinomas (P<0.001). On the other hand, Pak1, Pak4 and p-Pak4 expression negatively correlated with histological grade (all P<0.05) while p-Pak2 and cytoplasmic Pak4 expression inversely correlated with myometrial invasion (all P<0.05). Furthermore, patients with endometrial cancers with lower cytoplasmic Pak4 expression showed poorer survival (P = 0.026). Multivariate analysis showed cytoplasmic Pak4 is an independent prognostic factor. Functionally, knockdown of Pak1, but not Pak4, in endometrial cancer cell line led to reduced cell proliferation along with reduced cyclin D1, estrogen receptor (ERα) and progestogen receptor (PR) expression. Significant correlation between Pak1 and PR expression was also detected in clinical samples. Our findings suggest that Pak1 and cytoplasmic p-Pak2 may promote cell proliferation in normal endometrium during menstral cycle. Pak1, cytoplasmic and nuclear Pak4 and nuclear p-Pak4 are involved in the pathogenesis of endometrial cancer especially in postmenopausal women. Pak1 promote endometrial cancer cell proliferation, particular in type I endometrioid carcinoma. Cytoplasmic Pak4 can be potential prognostic marker in endometrial cancer.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0133467PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4517872PMC
May 2016

FBI-1 Is Overexpressed in Gestational Trophoblastic Disease and Promotes Tumor Growth and Cell Aggressiveness of Choriocarcinoma via PI3K/Akt Signaling.

Am J Pathol 2015 Jul;185(7):2038-48

Department of Pathology, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China. Electronic address:

Human placental trophoblasts can be considered pseudomalignant, with tightly controlled proliferation, apoptosis, and invasiveness. Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) represents a family of heterogeneous trophoblastic lesions with aberrant apoptotic and proliferative activities and dysregulation of cell signaling pathways. We characterize the oncogenic effects of factor that binds to the inducer of short transcripts of HIV-1 [FBI-1, alias POZ and Krüppel erythroid myeloid ontogenic factor (POKEMON)/ZBTB7A] in GTD and its role in promoting cell aggressiveness in vitro and tumor growth in vivo. IHC studies showed increased nuclear expression of FBI-1, including hydatidiform moles, choriocarcinoma (CCA), and placental site trophoblastic tumor, in GTD. In JAR and JEG-3 CCA cells, ectopic FBI-1 expression opposed apoptosis through repression of proapoptotic genes (eg, BAK1, FAS, and CASP8). FBI-1 overexpression also promoted Akt activation, as indicated by Akt-pS473 phosphorylation. FBI-1 overexpression promoted mobility and invasiveness of JEG-3 and JAR, but not in the presence of the phosphoinositide 3-kinase inhibitor LY294002. These findings suggest that FBI-1 could promote cell migration and invasion via phosphoinositide 3-kinase/Akt signaling. In vivo, nude mice injected with CCA cells with stable FBI-1 knockdown demonstrated reduced tumor growth compared with that in control groups. These findings suggest that FBI-1 is clinically associated with the progression of, and may be a therapeutic target in, GTD, owing to its diverse oncogenic effects on dysregulated trophoblasts.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.ajpath.2015.03.011DOI Listing
July 2015

Overexpression of forkhead box protein M1 (FOXM1) in ovarian cancer correlates with poor patient survival and contributes to paclitaxel resistance.

PLoS One 2014 20;9(11):e113478. Epub 2014 Nov 20.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, HKSAR, China; Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong -Shenzhen Hospital, Shenzhen, China.

Aim: Deregulation of FOXM1 has been documented in various cancers. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of FOXM1 in ovarian cancer tumorigenesis and paclitaxel resistance.

Experimental Design: Expression of FOXM1 was examined in 119 clinical samples by immunohistochemistry and correlated with clinicopathological parameters. Effects of FOXM1 knockdown on ovarian cancer cell migration, invasion and mitotic catastrophe were also studied. qPCR and ChIP-qPCR were used to establish KIF2C as a novel FOXM1 target gene implicated in chemoresistance.

Results: High nuclear FOXM1 expression in ovarian cancer patient samples was significantly associated with advanced stages (P = 0.035), shorter overall (P = 0.019) and disease-free (P = 0.014) survival. Multivariate analysis confirmed FOXM1 expression as an independent prognostic factor for ovarian cancer. FOXM1 knockdown significantly inhibited migration and invasion of ovarian cancer cells and enhanced paclitaxel-mediated cell death and mitotic catastrophe in a p53-independent manner. Bioinformatics analysis suggested a number of potential transcription targets of FOXM1. One of the potential targets, KIF2C, exhibited similar expression pattern to FOXM1 in chemosensitive and chemoresistant cells in response to paclitaxel treatment. FOXM1 could be detected at the promoter of KIF2C and FOXM1 silencing significantly down-regulated KIF2C.

Conclusion: Our findings suggest that FOXM1 is associated with poor patient outcome and contributes to paclitaxel resistance by blocking mitotic catastrophe. KIF2C is identified as a novel FOXM1 transcriptional target that may be implicated in the acquisition of chemoresistance. FOXM1 should be further investigated as a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target for ovarian cancer.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0113478PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4239070PMC
December 2015

Downregulation of the gli transcription factors regulator Kif7 facilitates cell survival and migration of choriocarcinoma cells.

PLoS One 2014 29;9(9):e108248. Epub 2014 Sep 29.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, HKSAR, China; Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong - Shenzhen Hospital, Shenzhen, China.

The kinesin protein Kif7 has been recognized as an integral component of hedgehog signalling. Aberrant activation of hedgehog signalling has been implicated in many human solid tumours. Gestational trophoblastic disease includes frankly malignant choriocarcinoma and potentially malignant hydatidiform mole. Here we investigated the hedgehog signalling components expression profiles in gestational trophoblastic disease. Downregulation of Gli1, Gli2, Gli3 and Kif7 was demonstrated in clinical samples of choriocarcinoma and hydatidiform moles as well as choriocarcinoma cell lines when compared with normal placentas. Ectopic expression of Kif7 in two choriocarcinoma cell lines JAR and JEG-3 led to a decrease in cell growth and increase in apoptosis demonstrated by MTT and TUNEL assays, respectively. Overexpression of Kif7 also led to suppressed cell migration through transwell assay. In contrast, knocking down Kif7 in HTR-8/SVneo, an immortalized trophoblast cell line, increased cell number over time and increased the migratory ability of the cells. Taken together, Kif7 may contribute to pathogenesis of gestational trophoblastic disease through enhancing survival and promoting dissemination of trophoblasts.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0108248PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4180749PMC
November 2015

Targeting estrogen receptor subtypes (ERα and ERβ) with selective ER modulators in ovarian cancer.

J Endocrinol 2014 May 12;221(2):325-36. Epub 2014 May 12.

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, 6/F Professorial Block, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.

Ovarian cancer cells express both estrogen receptor α (ERα) and ERβ, and hormonal therapy is an attractive treatment option because of its relatively few side effects. However, estrogen was previously shown to have opposite effects in tumors expressing ERα compared with ERβ, indicating that the two receptor subtypes may have opposing effects. This may explain the modest response to nonselective estrogen inhibition in clinical practice. In this study, we aimed to investigate the effect of selectively targeting each ER subtype on ovarian cancer growth. Ovarian cancer cell lines SKOV3 and OV2008, expressing both ER subtypes, were treated with highly selective ER modulators. Sodium 3'-(1-(phenylaminocarbonyl)-3,4-tetrazolium)-bis(4-methoxy-6-nitro) benzene sulfonic acid hydrate (XTT) assay revealed that treatment with 1,3-bis(4-hydroxyphenyl)-4-methyl-5-[4-(2-piperidinylethoxy)phenol]-1H-pyrazole dihydrochloride (MPP) (ERα antagonist) or 2,3-bis(4-hydroxy-phenyl)-propionitrile (DPN) (ERβ agonist) significantly suppressed cell growth in both cell lines. In contrast, 4,4',4″-(4-propyl-[1H]-pyrazole-1,3,5-triyl) trisphenol (PPT) (ERα agonist) or 4-[2-phenyl-5,7-bis(trifluoromethyl)pyrazolo[1,5-a]-pyrimidin-3-yl]phenol (PHTPP) (ERβ antagonist) significantly enhanced cell growth. These results were confirmed on a xenograft model where SKOV3 cells were injected s.c. into ovariectomized mice. We observed that the average size of xenografts in both the DPN-treated group and the MPP-treated group was significantly smaller than that for the vehicle-treated group. In addition, we found that phospho-AKT expressions in SKOV3 cells were reduced by 80% after treatment with MPP and DPN, indicating that the AKT pathway was involved. The combined treatment with MPP and DPN had a synergistic effect in suppressing ovarian cancer cell growth. Our findings indicate that targeting ER subtypes may enhance the response to hormonal treatment in women with ovarian cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1530/JOE-13-0500DOI Listing
May 2014

Epigenetic silencing of microRNA-199b-5p is associated with acquired chemoresistance via activation of JAG1-Notch1 signaling in ovarian cancer.

Oncotarget 2014 Feb;5(4):944-58

Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, P.R.China.

Epithelial ovarian cancer is a highly lethal and aggressive gynecological malignancy. The high mortality rate is due in part to the fact that many advanced cancer patients become refractory to current chemotherapeutic agents, leading to tumor recurrence and death. However, the underlying mechanisms leading to chemoresistance remain obscure. Here, we report that the loss of miR-199b-5p due to progressive epigenetic silencing leads to the activation of the JAG1-mediated Notch1 signaling cascade, thereby leading to the development of acquired chemoresistance in ovarian cancer. Using miRCURY LNA™ microRNA array and Q-PCR analyses of two pairs of cisplatin-sensitive and -resistant ovarian cancer cell lines, we identified miR-199b-5p as significantly down-regulated in cisplatin-resistant ovarian cancer cells and confirmed that miR-199b-5p is clinically associated with advanced and poor survival ovarian cancers. Interestingly, the loss of miR-199b-5p could be restored by 5-Aza-dC-mediated demethylation, and methylated specific PCR (MS-PCR), bisulfite-sequencing and pyrosequencing revealed that the promoter region of miR-199b-5p was hypermethylated. Computational and mechanistic analyses identified JAG1 as a primary target of miR-199b-5p. Notably, the reduced expression of miR-199b-5p was found to be inversely correlated with the increased expression of JAG1 using an ovarian cancer tissue array. Enforced expression of miR-199b-5p sensitized ovarian cancer cells to cisplatin-induced cytotoxicity both in vitro and in vivo. Conversely, re-expression of miR-199b-5p and siRNA-mediated JAG1 knockdown or treatment with Notch specific inhibitor γ-secretase (GSI) attenuated JAG1-Notch1 signaling activity, thereby enhancing cisplatin-mediated cell cytotoxicity. Taken together, our study suggests that the epigenetic silencing of miR-199b-5p during tumor progression is significantly associated with acquired chemoresistance in ovarian cancer through the activation of JAG1-Notch1 signaling.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4011596PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.1458DOI Listing
February 2014

Downregulation of ASPP2 in choriocarcinoma contributes to increased migratory potential through Src signaling pathway activation.

Carcinogenesis 2013 Sep 13;34(9):2170-7. Epub 2013 May 13.

Department of Pathology and.

Gestational choriocarcinoma is a malignant tumor derived from placental trophoblast and the most aggressive member of gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD). Apoptosis-stimulating protein of p53-2 (ASPP2) is a member of ASPP family that transactivates p53 and thereby functions as a tumor suppressor. In this study, the expression profile of ASPP2 in choriocarcinoma was examined in comparison with normal placentas and hydatidiform moles, the latter being a type of GTD that carries malignant potential. Downregulation of ASPP2 messenger RNA and protein was demonstrated in choriocarcinoma by quantitative PCR and immunohistochemistry. ASPP2-transfected choriocarcinoma cells (JEG-3 and JAR) showed an increase in apoptosis and a decrease in cell migration as detected by TdT-mediated dUTP nick end labeling and wound healing assays, respectively, illustrating the complex action of ASPP2 on cell functions other than programmed cell death. Activated Src is known to be important in tumor progression. Transfection of ASPP2 but not ASPP1, another tumor-suppressive ASPP, was found to be related to subsequent decreased Src-pY416 phosphorylation, suggesting an inactivating effect of ASPP2 on Src. Moreover, this ASPP2-mediated inactivation of Src could be abolished by RNA interference with C-terminal Src kinase (Csk), a kinase that can inhibit Src activation. Our findings suggested that the ability of ASPP2 to attenuate Src activation was specific to ASPP2 in a Csk-dependent manner. Taken together, we demonstrated a loss of tumor-suppressive ASPP2 in choriocarcinoma with effects on cell migration and apoptosis. We also unveiled a possible mechanistic link between ASPP2 and Csk/Src signaling pathway, implicating the multiple cellular functions of ASPP2.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgt161DOI Listing
September 2013

The blood-follicle barrier (BFB) in disease and in ovarian function.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2012 ;763:186-92

Center for Biomedical Research, Population Council, New York New York, USA.

The blood-follicle barrier (BFB) is one of the blood-tissue barriers in mammalian body found in developing follicles in the ovary. The BFB, besides the tight junction (TJ)-permeability barrier of the endothelial cells in the microvessels that surround the developing follicle, is constituted and contributed significantly by the basement membrane of the developing follicle which alters its composition rapidly during follicle development. While the concept of the BFB and its ultrastructure were described more than six decades ago, fewer than 20 reports are found in the literature that were dedicated to investigate the biology, regulation, and function of the BFB either in health or in disease. Furthermore, detailed analysis of the adhesion protein complexes and the regulation of the junction dynamics at the BFB are still missing in the literature. The goal of this short chapter is to provide an update on this important blood-tissue barrier, it is obvious that future investigation is much needed in the field to understand this ultrastructure better in order to treat and better ovarian disorders including ovarian cancer.
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http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4169694PMC
http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-1-4614-4711-5_9DOI Listing
April 2013

Paradoxical impact of two folate receptors, FRα and RFC, in ovarian cancer: effect on cell proliferation, invasion and clinical outcome.

PLoS One 2012 7;7(11):e47201. Epub 2012 Nov 7.

Department of Pathology, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China.

Despite being an essential vitamin, folate has been implicated to enhance tumor growth, as evidenced by reports on overexpression of folate receptor alpha (FRα) in carcinomas. The role of another folate transporter, reduced folate carrier (RFC), is largely unknown. This study investigated the roles of folate, FRα and RFC in ovarian cancers. We demonstrated FRα mRNA and protein overexpression and reduced RFC expression in association with FRα gene amplification and RFC promoter hypermethylation, respectively. FRα overexpression was associated with tumor progression while RFC expression incurred a favorable clinical outcome. Such reciprocal expression pattern was also observed in ovarian cancer cell lines. Folate was shown to promote cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasion in vitro, and down-regulate E-cadherin expression. This effect was blocked after either stable knockdown of FRα or ectopic overexpression of RFC. This hitherto unreported phenomenon suggests that, RFC can serve as a balancing partner of FRα and confer a protective effect in patients with high FRα-expressing ovarian carcinomas, as evidenced by their prolonged overall and disease-free survivals. In conclusion, we report on the paradoxical impact of FRα (putative oncogenic) and RFC (putative tumor suppressive) in human malignancies. FRα and RFC may potentially be explored as therapeutic target or prognostic marker respectively. We recommend caution and additional research on folate supplements in cancer patients.
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http://journals.plos.org/plosone/article?id=10.1371/journal.pone.0047201PLOS
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3492371PMC
April 2013

Dysregulated stemness-related genes in gynecological malignancies.

Histol Histopathol 2012 09;27(9):1121-30

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, China.

In recent years, much attention has been paid to the concept of cancer stem cells (CSC) and self-renewal related pathways in cancer biology. This review outlines the dysregulated stemness-related genes or transcription factors in gynecological cancers. Hedgehog (Hh) and Notch signaling are important pathways in tissue pattern programming and cell fate determination during embryonic development. Hyperactivation of these two pathways was frequently observed in gynecological malignancies such as ovarian, endometrial and cervical cancers. In contrast, the expression profiles of pluripotency-regulating core transcriptional circuitry: Nanog, Oct4 and Sox2 appear heterogeneous. Among these transcription factors, overexpression of Nanog was found to exert a prominent effect in gynecological tumorigenesis, while dysregulations of Oct4 and Sox2 may vary in a context dependent manner. On the other hand, the isolation of putative CSC illustrates a hierarchy model of tumor heterogeneity, in which only a subset of cells among biologically distinct populations can initiate tumor growth. Re-activation of these pluripotent transcription factors (Nanog, Oct4 and/or Sox2) in association with distinct tumorigenic properties could be found in clones isolated from gynecological tumors using various approaches. Recent understanding on the roles of Hh and Notch signaling in enhancing CSC survival may help to better understand the mechanism of carcinogenesis and identify new pharmaceutical targets for gynecological malignancies.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.14670/HH-27.1121DOI Listing
September 2012

Overexpression of dedicator of cytokinesis I (Dock180) in ovarian cancer correlated with aggressive phenotype and poor patient survival.

Histopathology 2011 Dec;59(6):1163-72

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, HKSAR, China.

Aims: Dedicator of cytokinesis I (Dock180) is a novel guanine nucleotide exchange factor for Rho guanosine triphosphates (GTPases) important for cell migration. The aim of this study was to evaluate the role of Dock180 in ovarian carcinogenesis.

Methods And Results: Using immunohistochemistry, real-time polymerase chain reaction and Western blotting, overexpression of Dock180 RNA and protein was demonstrated in the nucleus and cytoplasm of ovarian cancer cell lines (n = 5) and clinical samples of ovarian borderline tumours (n = 21) and invasive cancers (n = 108) when compared with ovarian epithelial cell lines (n = 3) and benign cystadenomas (n = 10) (P < 0.05). High Dock180 cytoplasmic expression in ovarian cancer (n = 108) was associated significantly with serous histological type, high-grade cancer and advanced stage (P < 0.05), as well as poor overall and disease-free survival (P = 0.004). Using multivariate progression analysis, high Dock180 cytoplasmic expression and advanced cancer stage were found to be independent prognostic factors for short overall survival and disease-free survival (P < 0.05). Exogenous expression of Dock180 by transient transfection enhanced cancer cell migration and invasion, whereas knockdown of Dock180 by an siRNA approach retarded cancer cell migration and invasion in association with down-regulation of matrix metalloproteinase 2.

Conclusions: Our findings suggest that Dock180 contributes to ovarian carcinogenesis and dissemination and is a potential prognostic marker and therapeutic target.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1111/j.1365-2559.2011.04045.xDOI Listing
December 2011

iASPP and chemoresistance in ovarian cancers: effects on paclitaxel-mediated mitotic catastrophe.

Clin Cancer Res 2011 Nov 16;17(21):6924-33. Epub 2011 Sep 16.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.

Purpose: iASPP is a specific regulator of p53-mediated apoptosis. Herein, we provided the first report on the expression profile of iASPP in ovarian epithelial tumor and its effect on paclitaxel chemosensitivity.

Experimental Design: Expression and amplification status of iASPP was examined in 203 clinical samples and 17 cell lines using immunohistochemistry, quantitative real-time PCR, and immunoblotting, and correlated with clinicopathologic parameters. Changes in proliferation, mitotic catastrophe, apoptosis, and underlying mechanism in ovarian cancer cells of different p53 status following paclitaxel exposure were also analyzed.

Results: The protein and mRNA expression of iASPP was found to be significantly increased in ovarian cancer samples and cell lines. High iASPP expression was significantly associated with clear cell carcinoma subtype (P = 0.003), carboplatin and paclitaxel chemoresistance (P = 0.04), shorter overall (P = 0.003), and disease-free (P = 0.001) survival. Multivariate analysis confirmed iASPP expression as an independent prognostic factor. Increased iASPP mRNA expression was significantly correlated with gene amplification (P = 0.023). iASPP overexpression in ovarian cancer cells conferred resistance to paclitaxel by reducing mitotic catastrophe in a p53-independent manner via activation of separase, whereas knockdown of iASPP enhanced paclitaxel-mediated mitotic catastrophe through inactivating separase. Both securin and cyclin B1/CDK1 complex were involved in regulating separase by iASPP. Conversely, overexpressed iASPP inhibited apoptosis in a p53-dependent mode.

Conclusions: Our data show an association of iASPP overexpression with gene amplification in ovarian cancer and suggest a role of iASPP in poor patient outcome and chemoresistance, through blocking mitotic catastrophe. iASPP should be explored further as a potential prognostic marker and target for chemotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-11-0588DOI Listing
November 2011

Overexpressed PAK4 promotes proliferation, migration and invasion of choriocarcinoma.

Carcinogenesis 2011 May 16;32(5):765-71. Epub 2011 Feb 16.

Departments of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, Special Administrative Region of China.

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) includes frankly malignant choriocarcinoma (CCA) and placental site trophoblastic tumor and potentially malignant hydatidiform mole. p21-Activated kinase (PAK) 4 promotes cell motility. This study investigated the role of PAK4 in the pathogenesis of GTD. PAK4 messenger RNA and protein expressions in clinical samples and cell lines of normal placentas and GTD were determined by quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction and western blot, respectively. The effects of human chorionic gonadotropin (hCG) and phosphoinositide 3 kinase (PI3K) on the expression and activation of PAK4 were investigated by treating CCA JEG3 and JAR cells with anti-hCG antibody and PI3K inhibitor, respectively. The effects of PAK4 on CCA cell proliferation, migration and invasion were assessed by corresponding functional assays. We demonstrated overexpression of PAK4 in GTD and CCA cell lines at both RNA and protein level. hCG is one of the upstream regulators of PAK4 expression, whereas activation of PAK4 is PI3K/PKB dependent in JEG3 and JAR cells. Significant correlation was found between PAK4 expression and proliferation index minichromosome maintenance complex component 7 (P = 0.007). In JEG3 and JAR cells, stably transfected PAK4 increased proliferation, migration and invasion, whereas small interfering RNA knockdown of PAK4 decreased proliferation, migration and invasion along with downregulated CDK6 and membrane-type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) and upregulated p16. We further found PAK4-mediated transcription of MT1-MMP in CCA cells by luciferase reporter assay. Our results demonstrated for the first time that overexpressed PAK4 was involved in the pathogenesis of GTD, promoting proliferation and enhancing cell migration and invasion in CCA cells.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgr033DOI Listing
May 2011

Overexpression of proto-oncogene FBI-1 activates membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase in association with adverse outcome in ovarian cancers.

Mol Cancer 2010 Dec 21;9:318. Epub 2010 Dec 21.

Department of Pathology and, The University of Hong Kong, HKSAR, China.

Background: FBI-1 (factor that binds to the inducer of short transcripts of human immunodeficiency virus-1) is a member of the POK (POZ and Kruppel) family of transcription factors and play important roles in cellular differentiation and oncogenesis. Recent evidence suggests that FBI-1 is expressed at high levels in a subset of human lymphomas and some epithelial solid tumors. However, the function of FBI-1 in human ovarian cancers remains elusive.

Results: In this study, we investigated the role of FBI-1 in human ovarian cancers, in particularly, its function in cancer cell invasion via modulating membrane type 1-matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP). Significantly higher FBI-1 protein and mRNA expression levels were demonstrated in ovarian cancers samples and cell lines compared with borderline tumors and benign cystadenomas. Increased FBI-1 mRNA expression was correlated significantly with gene amplification (P = 0.037). Moreover, higher FBI-1 expression was found in metastatic foci (P = 0.036) and malignant ascites (P = 0.021), and was significantly associated with advanced stage (P = 0.012), shorter overall survival (P = 0.032) and disease-free survival (P = 0.016). In vitro, overexpressed FBI-1 significantly enhanced cell migration and invasion both in OVCA 420 and SKOV-3 ovarian carcinoma cells, irrespective of p53 status, accompanied with elevated expression of MT1-MMP, but not MMP-2 or TIMP-2. Moreover, knockdown of MT1-MMP abolished FBI-1-mediated cell migration and invasion. Conversely, stable knockdown of FBI-1 remarkably reduced the motility of these cells with decreased expression of MT1-MMP. Promoter assay and chromatin immunoprecipitation study indicated that FBI-1 could directly interact with the promoter spanning ~600 bp of the 5'-flanking sequence of MT1-MMP and enhanced its expression in a dose-dependent manner. Furthermore, stable knockdown and ectopic expression of FBI-1 decreased and increased cell proliferation respectively in OVCA 420, but not in the p53 null SKOV-3 cells.

Conclusions: Our results suggested an important role of FBI-1 in ovarian cancer cell proliferation, cell mobility, and invasiveness, and that FBI-1 can be a potential target of chemotherapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1186/1476-4598-9-318DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3022670PMC
December 2010

Downregulation of ASPP1 in gestational trophoblastic disease: correlation with hypermethylation, apoptotic activity and clinical outcome.

Mod Pathol 2011 Apr 19;24(4):522-32. Epub 2010 Nov 19.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

Gestational trophoblastic disease encompasses a spectrum of trophoblastic lesions including true neoplasms such as choriocarcinomas and the potentially malignant hydatidiform moles, which may develop persistent disease requiring chemotherapy. ASPP1, a member of apoptosis-stimulating proteins of p53 (ASPPs), is a proapoptotic protein that can stimulate apoptosis through its interaction with p53. We evaluated the promoter methylation and expression profiles of ASPP1 in different trophoblastic tissues and its in vitro functional effect on two choriocarcinoma cell lines, namely JEG-3 and JAR. Significant downregulation of ASPP1 mRNA and protein levels was demonstrated in hydatidiform moles and choriocarcinomas, when compared with normal placentas by quantitative-PCR and immunohistochemistry. The ASPP1 mRNA level was significantly correlated with its hypermethylation status, evaluated with methylation-specific PCR, in placenta and gestational trophoblastic disease samples (P=0.024). Moreover, lower ASPP1 immunoreactivity was shown in hydatidiform moles that progressed to persistent gestational trophoblastic neoplasms than in those that regressed (P=0.045). A significant correlation was also found between expression of ASPP1 and proliferative indices (assessed by Ki67 and MCM7), apoptotic activity (M30 CytoDeath antibody), p53 and caspase-8 immunoreactivities. An in vitro study showed that ectopic expression of ASPP1 could trigger apoptosis through intrinsic and extrinsic pathways as indicated by an increase in cleaved caspase-9 and Fas ligand protein expression. The latter suggests a hitherto unreported novel link between ASPP1 and the extrinsic pathway of apoptosis. Our findings suggest that downregulation of ASPP1 by hypermethylation may be involved in the pathogenesis and progress of gestational trophoblastic disease, probably through its effect on apoptosis.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/modpathol.2010.216DOI Listing
April 2011

p21-activated kinase 4 regulates ovarian cancer cell proliferation, migration, and invasion and contributes to poor prognosis in patients.

Proc Natl Acad Sci U S A 2010 Oct 6;107(43):18622-7. Epub 2010 Oct 6.

Department of Pathology, University of Hong Kong, Pokfulam, Hong Kong.

Ovarian cancer is a lethal gynecological malignancy, and to improve survival, it is important to identify novel prognostic and therapeutic targets. In this study, we present a role for p21-activated kinase 4 (Pak4) in ovarian cancer progression. We show a significant association between increased expression of Pak4 and its activated form, phosphorylated (p)-Pak4 Ser(474), with metastasis of ovarian cancers, shorter overall and disease-free survival, advanced stage and high-grade cancers, serous/clear cell histological subtypes, and reduced chemosensitivity. Pak4 overexpression was also observed in ovarian cancer cell lines. Pak4 and p-Pak4 expression were detected both in the nucleus and cytoplasm of ovarian cancer cells, in vitro as well as in vivo. Stable knockdown of Pak4 in ovarian cancer cell lines led to reduced cell migration, invasion, and proliferation, along with reduced c-Src, ERK1/2, and epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) activation and decreased matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP2) expression. Conversely, Pak4 overexpression promoted ovarian cancer cell migration and invasion in a c-Src, MEK-1, MMP2, and kinase-dependent manner, and induced cell proliferation through the Pak4/c-Src/EGFR pathway that controls cyclin D1 and CDC25A expression. Stable knockdown of Pak4 also impeded tumor growth and dissemination in nude mice. This report reveals the association between Pak4 and important clinicopathologic parameters, suggesting Pak4 to be a significant prognostic marker and potential therapeutic molecular target in ovarian cancer. The implied possible cross-talk between Pak4 and EGFR suggests the potential of dual targeting of EGFR and Pak4 as a unique therapeutic approach for cancer therapy.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1073/pnas.0907481107DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2972956PMC
October 2010

p21-Activated kinase-1 promotes aggressive phenotype, cell proliferation, and invasion in gestational trophoblastic disease.

Am J Pathol 2010 Jun 22;176(6):3015-22. Epub 2010 Apr 22.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam Road, Hong Kong, China.

Gestational trophoblastic disease (GTD) includes hydatidiform mole (HM), which can develop persistent gestational trophoblastic neoplasia requiring chemotherapy; choriocarcinoma, which is a frankly malignant tumor; placental site trophoblastic tumor; and epithelioid trophoblastic tumor. p21-Activated kinases (PAKs) promote malignant tumor progression. Therefore, this study investigated PAK1, PAK2, and p-PAK2 Ser(20) in the pathogenesis of GTD. By real-time PCR, PAK1 mRNA was significantly higher in HMs, particularly metastatic HMs (P = 0.046) and HMs that developed persistent disease (P = 0.011), when compared with normal placentas. By immunohistochemistry, significantly increased cytoplasmic PAK1 immunoreactivity in cytotrophoblasts was also detected in HMs (P = 0.042) and choriocarcinomas (P = 0.003). In addition, HMs that developed persistent disease displayed higher PAK1 immunoreactivity than those that regressed (P = 0.016), and elevated PAK1 immunoreactivity was observed in placental site trophoblastic tumors. Indeed, there was significant positive correlation between PAK1 expression and the proliferative indices Ki-67 (P = 0.016) and MCM7 (P = 0.026). Moreover, higher PAK1 mRNA and protein expression was confirmed in the choriocarcinoma cell-lines JEG-3 and JAR; however, PAK2 mRNA and p-PAK2 immunoreactivity showed a similar expression pattern in normal first trimester placentas and GTD. Knockdown of PAK1 in JEG-3 and JAR reduced cell proliferation, migration, and invasion ability, up-regulated p16, and down-regulated vascular endothelial growth factor and MT1-MMP expression. This is the first report revealing the involvement of PAK1 in the pathogenesis and clinical progress of GTD.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2353/ajpath.2010.091263DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2877861PMC
June 2010

Differential expression and phosphorylation of Pak1 and Pak2 in ovarian cancer: effects on prognosis and cell invasion.

Int J Cancer 2010 Jul;127(1):21-31

Department of Pathology, Queen Mary Hospital, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

Ovarian cancer is a gynecological malignancy with high mortality. Therefore, the identification of novel prognostic and therapeutic targets is important. p21-activated kinases (Paks) are involved in cytoskeleton reorganization. This study investigated the clinical significance of total and phosphorylated (p) Pak1 and Pak2 as well as their functional roles in ovarian cancer. Expressions of Pak1, p-Pak1 Thr(212), Pak2 and p-Pak2 Ser(20) in ovarian normal and cancerous cell lines as well as in clinical samples of ovarian tumors were evaluated. The effects of Pak1 and Pak2 on ovarian cancer cell functions were determined. Pak1, p-Pak1 and p-Pak2 were overexpressed in ovarian cancer cell lines, and clinical samples of ovarian cancers were compared with benign ovarian lesions/inclusion cysts. Similar Pak2 expression levels were observed among normal and cancerous cell lines and clinical samples. After multiple testing correction, high Pak1 and nuclear p-Pak1 expression in ovarian cancers was significantly associated with histological type and tumor grade, respectively. Pak1 and p-Pak1 expression was associated with poor overall and disease-free survival. Pak1 was an independent prognostic factor. Knockdown of Pak1 and Pak2 in ovarian cancer cell lines reduced cell migration and invasion but did not affect cell proliferation and apoptosis. Knockdown of Pak1 also reduced p38 activation and downregulated vascular endothelial growth factor. Conversely, ectopic Pak1 overexpression enhanced ovarian cancer cell migration and invasion in a kinase-dependent manner, along with increased p38 activation. Our findings suggest that Pak1, p-Pak1 and p-Pak2 play important roles in ovarian carcinogenesis. Pak1 and p-Pak1 may be potential prognostic markers and therapeutic molecular targets in ovarian cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1002/ijc.25005DOI Listing
July 2010

Extracellular matrix and its role in spermatogenesis.

Adv Exp Med Biol 2008 ;636:74-91

Department of Pathology, Queen Mary Hospital, University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

In adult mammalian testes, such as rats, Sertoli and germ cells at different stages of their development in the seminiferous epithelium are in close contact with the basement membrane, a modified form of extracellular matrix (ECM). In essence, Sertoli and germ cells in particular spermatogonia are "resting" on the basement membrane at different stages of the seminiferous epithelial cycle, relying on its structural and hormonal supports. Thus, it is not entirely unexpected that ECM plays a significant role in regulating spermatogenesis, particularly spermatogonia and Sertoli cells, and the blood-testis barrier (BTB) constituted by Sertoli cells since these cells are in physical contact with the basement membrane. Additionally, the basement membrane is also in close contact with the underlying collagen network and the myoid cell layers, which together with the lymphatic network, constitute the tunica propria. The seminiferous epithelium and the tunica propria, in turn, constitute the seminiferous tubule, which is the functional unit that produces spermatozoa via its interaction with Leydig cells in the interstitium. In short, the basement membrane and the underlying collagen network that create the acellular zone of the tunica propria may even facilitate cross-talk between the seminiferous epithelium, the myoid cells and cells in the interstitium. Recent studies in the field have illustrated the crucial role of ECM in supporting Sertoli and germ cell function in the seminiferous epithelium, including the BTB dynamics. In this chapter, we summarize some of the latest findings in the field regarding the functional role of ECM in spermatogenesis using the adult rat testis as a model. We also high light specific areas of research that deserve attention for investigators in the field.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-0-387-09597-4_5DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4035910PMC
January 2010

TrkB as a therapeutic target for ovarian cancer.

Expert Opin Ther Targets 2009 Oct;13(10):1169-78

The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Department of Pathology, Hong Kong, China.

Background: In many countries, ovarian cancer is the most lethal gynecological malignancy. Its poor prognosis is mainly due to the late stage of disease with metastasis at presentation. The significant failure rate of chemotherapy in patients with advanced stage disease is also a main concern. As such, developing novel therapeutic targets is essential to improve long-term survival. Overexpression of Tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB), a tyrosine kinase receptor, has been documented in ovarian cancer and is found to be correlated with poor prognosis.

Objective/methods: We discuss the functional roles and the related downstream signaling pathways of TrkB and its ligand brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF) in ovarian cancer. The possible crosstalk between TrkB/BDNF and other putative molecular targets in ovarian cancer is also discussed.

Results/conclusions: All these latest findings shed light on the application of TrkB as a therapeutic target for ovarian cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1517/14728220903196787DOI Listing
October 2009

Aberrant activation of hedgehog signaling pathway contributes to endometrial carcinogenesis through beta-catenin.

Mod Pathol 2009 Jun 27;22(6):839-47. Epub 2009 Mar 27.

Department of Pathology, Queen Mary Hospital, the University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong, China.

The hedgehog and Wnt signaling pathways play important roles in human cancers with possible interaction. This study aimed at analysis and correlation of the expression of Gli1, a transcriptional factor and target gene of hedgehog signaling pathway, with clinicopathological parameters and expression of beta-catenin, an important member of the Wnt pathway, in normal, hyperplastic and malignant endometrium. Immunohistochemical study on 15 normal endometrium, 14 simple and complex hyperplasia without atypia, 37 atypical complex hyperplasia and 80 endometrial cancers showed significant Gli1 overexpression and beta-catenin nuclear immunoreactivity in endometrial cancers and atypical endometrial hyperplasia when compared with normal endometrium (P<0.05). Overexpression of Gli1 in endometrial cancers correlated with well-differentiated histological grade (P<0.001), non-myometrial invasion (P=0.004) and superficial myometrial invasion (P=0.041). beta-Catenin nuclear immunoreactivity was also associated with well-differentiated histology (P=0.013). Gli1 overexpression positively correlated with beta-catenin nuclear immunoreactivity in atypical complex hyperplasia (P=0.013) and endometrial carcinoma (P=0.017). Similar Gli1 and beta-catenin protein expression pattern was observed in normal and endometrial cancer cell lines by western blotting. We further showed a complex formation between Gli1 and beta-catenin protein in endometrial cancer cell lines in an immunoprecipitation study. Ectopic overexpression of Gli1 into endometrial cancer cells led to reduced expression of beta-catenin in cell cytoplasm and increased expression of beta-catenin in the nuclei. In summary, overexpression of Gli1 was an early event in endometrial carcinogenesis. Aberrant activation of hedgehog pathway may play important roles in endometrial cancer through beta-catenin nuclear accumulation.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1038/modpathol.2009.45DOI Listing
June 2009

Tyrosine kinase B receptor and BDNF expression in ovarian cancers - Effect on cell migration, angiogenesis and clinical outcome.

Cancer Lett 2009 Aug;281(2):151-61

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong.

In this report, we demonstrated that overexpression of tropomyosin-related kinase B (TrkB) was associated with shorter survival in ovarian cancer patients. Brain-derived neurotrophic factor (BDNF), the TrkB ligand, induced activation (phosphorylation) of TrkB in a dose dependent manner. Besides demonstrating the effect of BDNF/TrkB pathway in enhancing cancer cell migration and invasion but inhibiting apoptosis, we also report for the first time that exogenous hepatocyte growth factor induced TrkB expression at both mRNA and protein levels as well as phosphorylation. Our findings suggest that BDNF/TrkB pathway is important in ovarian carcinogenesis and TrkB may be a potential therapeutic target for ovarian cancer.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.canlet.2009.02.025DOI Listing
August 2009

Pathogenesis of choriocarcinoma: clinical, genetic and stem cell perspectives.

Future Oncol 2009 Mar;5(2):217-31

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, China.

Choriocarcinoma is a unique malignant neoplasm composed of mononuclear cytotrophoblasts and multinucleated syncytiotrophoblasts that produce human chorionic gonadotrophin. Choriocarcinoma can occur after a pregnancy, as a component of germ cell tumors, or in association with a poorly differentiated somatic carcinoma, each with distinct clinical features. Cytogenetic and molecular studies, predominantly on gestational choriocarcinoma, revealed the impact of oncogenes, tumor suppressor genes and imprinting genes on its pathogenesis. The role of stem cells in various types of choriocarcinoma has been studied recently. This review will discuss how such knowledge can enhance our understanding of the pathogenesis of choriocarcinoma, enable exploration of novel anti-choriocarcinoma targeted therapy and possibly improve our insight on embryological and placental development.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2217/14796694.5.2.217DOI Listing
March 2009

Aberrant activation of hedgehog signaling pathway in ovarian cancers: effect on prognosis, cell invasion and differentiation.

Carcinogenesis 2009 Jan 20;30(1):131-40. Epub 2008 Nov 20.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong, Queen Mary Hospital, Pokfulam, Hong Kong, China.

Aberrant activation of hedgehog (HH) pathway has been implicated in the development of human malignancies. This study aimed at investigating the role of HH molecules in human ovarian carcinogenesis. The expression profiles of HH molecules were examined in ovarian tumor samples and ovarian cancer cell lines and the in vitro effects of HH molecules on cell proliferation, apoptosis, migration, invasion and cell differentiation as well as related downstream target genes were assessed. Overexpression of Patched and Gli1 protein in ovarian cancers correlated with poor survival of the patients (P = 0.008; P = 0.004). Significantly elevated expression of Sonic hedgehog messenger RNA was observed in ovarian cancers compared with normal tissues and benign ovarian tumors and such differential expression was specific to histological types (P < 0.05). Ectopic Gli1 overexpression in ovarian cancer cells conferred increased cell proliferation, cell mobility, invasiveness and change in differentiation in association with increased expression of E-cadherin, vimentin, Bcl-2, caspases as well as beta1 integrin, membrane type 1 matrix metalloproteinase (MT1-MMP) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Treatment with 3-keto-N-(aminoethyl-aminocaproyl-dihydrocinnamoyl)-cyclopamine induced cancer cell apoptosis, suppressed cell growth, mobility and invasiveness and induced cancer cell dedifferentiation with decreased expression of E-cadherin, cytokeratin 7, Snail, calretinin, vimentin, Bcl-2, caspases, beta1 integrin, MT1-MMP and VEGF. Our data suggested that abnormal HH signaling activation plays important roles in the development and progression of ovarian cancers. Gli1 expression is an independent prognostic marker. Inhibition of the HH pathway molecules might be a valid therapeutic strategy for ovarian cancers.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/carcin/bgn230DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC7109814PMC
January 2009

Hypermethylation of SOX2 gene in hydatidiform mole and choriocarcinoma.

Reprod Sci 2008 Sep;15(7):735-44

Department of Pathology, Queen Mary Hospital, Hong Kong, China.

This study investigated the expression and methylation profiles of SOX2, a stem cell-related transcription factor, in placentas and gestational trophoblastic disease. The methylation status of SOX2 promoter region in 55 hydatidiform moles, 4 choriocarcinoma, 23 first trimester, and 15 term placentas was evaluated by methylation-specific polymerase chain reaction. The methylated allele was found in 4.4% (1/23) of first trimester placentas, 26.7% (4/15) term placentas, and 56.4% (31/55) of hydatidiform moles and all choriocarcinoma samples and cell lines. A significant reduction in SOX2 messenger RNA expression was found in the hydatidiform moles (P = .027) when compared with that in the placentas. SOX2 messenger RNA expression was significantly correlated with SOX2 hypermethylation (P < .001). SOX2 expression was restored in choriocarcinoma cell lines following treatment to 5-Aza-2(')-deoxycytidine and/or Trichostatin A, demethylation and histone deacetylase inhibitors, respectively, and the response was synergistic. Epigenetic mechanisms may play important role on the transcriptional regulation of SOX2 and contribute to pathogenesis of gestational trophoblastic disease.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.1177/1933719108322433DOI Listing
September 2008

Overexpression of NANOG in gestational trophoblastic diseases: effect on apoptosis, cell invasion, and clinical outcome.

Am J Pathol 2008 Oct 4;173(4):1165-72. Epub 2008 Sep 4.

Department of Pathology, The University of Hong Kong Special Administrative Region, China.

Gestational trophoblastic disease includes choriocarcinoma, a frankly malignant tumor, and hydatidiform mole (HM), which often leads to the development of persistent gestational trophoblastic neoplasia and requires chemotherapy. NANOG is an important transcription factor that is crucial for maintaining embryonic stem cell self-renewal and pluripotency. We postulated that NANOG is involved in the pathogenesis of gestational trophoblastic disease. In this study, significantly higher NANOG mRNA and protein expression levels, by quantitative PCR and immunoblotting, respectively, were demonstrated in HMs, particularly those that developed persistent disease, when compared with normal placentas. In addition, significantly increased nuclear NANOG immunoreactivity was found by immunohistochemistry in HMs (P < 0.001) and choriocarcinoma (P = 0.002). Higher NANOG expression levels were demonstrated in HMs that developed persistent disease, as compared with those that regressed (P = 0.025). Nuclear localization of NANOG was confirmed by confocal microscopy and immunoblotting in choriocarcinoma cell lines. There was a significant inverse correlation between NANOG immunoreactivity and apoptotic index assessed by M30 CytoDeath antibody (P = 0.012). After stable knockdown of NANOG in the choriocarcinoma cell line JEG-3 by an shRNA approach, increased apoptosis was observed in relation to with enhanced caspases and poly(ADP-ribose) polymerase activities. NANOG knockdown was also associated with decreased mobility and invasion of JEG-3 and down-regulation of matrix metalloproteases 2 and 9. These findings suggest that NANOG is involved in the pathogenesis and clinical progress of gestational trophoblastic disease, likely through its effect on apoptosis, cell migration, and invasion.
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http://dx.doi.org/10.2353/ajpath.2008.080288DOI Listing
http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2543083PMC
October 2008