Purpose: Despite initial sensitivity to chemotherapy, ovarian cancers (OVCA) often develop drug resistance, which limits patient survival. Using specimens and/or genomic data from 289 patients and a panel of cancer cell lines, we explored genome-wide expression changes that underlie the evolution of OVCA chemoresistance and characterized the BCL2 antagonist of cell death (BAD) apoptosis pathway as a determinant of chemosensitivity and patient survival.
Experimental design: Serial OVCA cell cisplatin treatments were performed in parallel with measurements of genome-wide expression changes. Pathway analysis was carried out on genes associated with increasing cisplatin resistance (EC(50)). BAD-pathway expression and BAD protein phosphorylation were evaluated in patient samples and cell lines as determinants of chemosensitivity and/or clinical outcome and as therapeutic targets.
Results: Induced in vitro OVCA cisplatin resistance was associated with BAD-pathway expression (P < 0.001). In OVCA cell lines and primary specimens, BAD protein phosphorylation was associated with platinum resistance (n = 147, P < 0.0001) and also with overall patient survival (n = 134, P = 0.0007). Targeted modulation of BAD-phosphorylation levels influenced cisplatin sensitivity. A 47-gene BAD-pathway score was associated with in vitro phosphorylated BAD levels and with survival in 142 patients with advanced-stage (III/IV) serous OVCA. Integration of BAD-phosphorylation or BAD-pathway score with OVCA surgical cytoreductive status was significantly associated with overall survival by log-rank test (P = 0.004 and P < 0.0001, respectively).
Conclusion: The BAD apoptosis pathway influences OVCA chemosensitivity and overall survival, likely via modulation of BAD phosphorylation. The pathway has clinical relevance as a biomarker of therapeutic response, patient survival, and as a promising therapeutic target.