Purpose: Up to one third of ovarian cancer patients are intrinsically resistant to platinum-based treatment. However, predictive and therapeutic strategies are lacking due to a poor understanding of the underlying molecular mechanisms. This study aimed to identify key molecular characteristics that are associated with primary chemoresistance in epithelial ovarian cancers.
Experimental design: Gene expression profiling was performed on a discovery set of 85 ovarian tumors with clinically well-defined response to chemotherapies as well as on an independent validation dataset containing 138 ovarian patients from the chemotreatment arm of the ICON7 trial.
Results: We identified a distinct "reactive stroma" gene signature that is specifically associated with primary chemoresistant tumors and was further upregulated in posttreatment recurrent tumors. Immunohistochemistry (IHC) and RNA in situ hybridization (RNA ISH) analyses on three of the highest-ranked signature genes (POSTN, LOX, and FAP) confirmed that modulation of the reactive stroma signature genes within the peritumoral stromal compartments was specifically associated with the clinical chemoresistance. Consistent with these findings, chemosensitive ovarian cells grown in the presence of recombinant POSTN promoted resistance to carboplatin and paclitaxel treatment in vitro. Finally, we validated the reactive stroma signature in an independent dataset and demonstrated that a high POSTN expression level predicts shorter progression-free survival following first-line chemotherapy.
Conclusions: Our findings highlight the important interplay between cancer and the tumor microenvironment in ovarian cancer biology and treatment. The identified reactive stromal components in this study provide a molecular basis to the further development of novel diagnostic and therapeutic strategies for overcoming chemoresistance in ovarian cancer.
©2015 American Association for Cancer Research.