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Journal Article

The multicellular signalling network of ovarian cancer metastases


Sokol,  Anna M.
Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Max Planck Society;


Graumann,  Johannes
Biomolecular Mass Spectrometry, Max Planck Institute for Heart and Lung Research, Max Planck Society;

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Sommerfeld, L., Finkernagel, F., Jansen, J. M., Wagner, U., Nist, A., Stiewe, T., et al. (2021). The multicellular signalling network of ovarian cancer metastases. CLINICAL AND TRANSLATIONAL MEDICINE, 11(11): e633. doi:10.1002/ctm2.633.

Cite as: https://hdl.handle.net/21.11116/0000-0009-9C1D-8
Background Transcoelomic spread is the major route of metastasis of ovarian high-grade serous carcinoma (HGSC) with the omentum as the major metastatic site. Its unique tumour microenvironment with its large populations of adipocytes, mesothelial cells and immune cells establishes an intercellular signaling network that is instrumental for metastatic growth yet poorly understood. Methods Based on transcriptomic analysis of tumour cells, tumour-associated immune and stroma cells we defined intercellular signaling pathways for 284 cytokines and growth factors and their cognate receptors after bioinformatic adjustment for contaminating cell types. The significance of individual components of this network was validated by analysing clinical correlations and potentially pro-metastatic functions, including tumour cell migration, pro-inflammatory signal transduction and TAM expansion. Results The data show an unexpected prominent role of host cells, and in particular of omental adipocytes, mesothelial cells and fibroblasts (CAF), in sustaining this signaling network. These cells, rather than tumour cells, are the major source of most cytokines and growth factors in the omental microenvironment (n = 176 vs. n = 13). Many of these factors target tumour cells, are linked to metastasis and are associated with a short survival. Likewise, tumour stroma cells play a major role in extracellular-matrix-triggered signaling. We have verified the functional significance of our observations for three exemplary instances. We show that the omental microenvironment (i) stimulates tumour cell migration and adhesion via WNT4 which is highly expressed by CAF; (ii) induces pro-tumourigenic TAM proliferation in conjunction with high CSF1 expression by omental stroma cells and (iii) triggers pro-inflammatory signaling, at least in part via a HSP70-NF-kappa B pathway. Conclusions The intercellular signaling network of omental metastases is majorly dependent on factors secreted by immune and stroma cells to provide an environment that supports ovarian HGSC progression. Clinically relevant pathways within this network represent novel options for therapeutic intervention.