Background: The chemokine CXCL12 and its cognate receptor, CXCR4, have been implicated in numerous tumour types where expression promotes tumour growth, angiogenesis, metastasis and suppresses tumour immunity.
Methods: Using a tissue microarray of 289 primary ovarian cancers coupled to a comprehensive database of clinicopathological variables, the expression of CXCL12 and CXCR4 was assessed by immunohistochemistry and its impact in terms of survival and clinicopathological variables was determined.
Results: Patients whose tumours expressed high levels of CXCL12 had significantly poorer survival (P=0.026) than patients whose tumours failed to produce this chemokine. Lack of CXCL12 expression within tumours was associated with a 51-month survival advantage for patients when compared with patients whose tumours expressed high levels of CXCL12. FIGO stage, adjuvant chemotherapy and the absence of macroscopic disease after surgery were all shown to predict prognosis independently of each other in this cohort of patients. CXCL12 was independently predictive of prognosis on multivariate analysis (P=0.016). There was no correlation between CXCL12 and any clinicopathological variable.
Conclusion: The chemokine CXCL12 is an independent predictor of poor survival in ovarian cancer. High expression of CXCL12 was seen in only 20% of the tumours, suggesting a role for anti-CXCL12/CXCR4 therapy in the management of these patients.