Background: The fibroblast growth factor (FGF) axis is an important mitogenic stimulus in prostate carcinogenesis. We have previously reported that transcript level of human similar expression to FGF (hSef), a key regulator of this pathway, is downregulated in clinical prostate cancer. In this study we further analysed the role of hSef in prostate cancer.
Methods: hSef function was studied in in vitro and in vivo prostate cancer models using stable over-expression clones. Protein expression of hSef was studied in a comprehensive tissue microarray.
Results: Stable over-expression of hSef resulted in reduced in vitro cancer cell proliferation, migration and invasive potential. In an in vivo xenograft model, the expression of hSef significantly retarded prostate tumour growth as compared with empty vector (P=0.03) and non-transfected (P=0.0001) controls. Histological examination further showed a less invasive tumour phenotype and reduced numbers of proliferating cells (P=0.0002). In signalling studies, hSef inhibited FGF-induced ERK phosphorylation, migration to the nucleus and activation of a reporter gene. Constitutively active Ras, however, was able to reverse these effects, suggesting that hSef exerts an effect either above or at the level of Ras in prostate cancer cells. In a large tissue microarray, we observed a significant loss of hSef protein in high-grade (P<0.0001) and metastatic (P<0.0001) prostate cancer.
Conclusions: Considered together, the role of hSef in attenuating FGF signalling and evidence of downregulation in advanced tumours argue strongly for a tumour suppressor function in human prostate cancer.