Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is a highly heterogeneous disease encompassing several distinct molecular subtypes and clinical entities. Despite the initial success of surgical debulking and adjuvant chemotherapy, recurrence with chemotherapy resistant tumors is common in patients with EOC and leads to poor overall survival. The extensive genetic and phenotypic heterogeneity associated with ovarian cancers has hindered the identification of effective prognostic and predictive biomarkers in EOC patients. In the current studies, we identify a tumor cell surface oncoantigen, chondroitin sulfate proteoglycan 4 (CSPG4), as an independent risk factor for decreased survival of patients with EOC. Our results show that CSPG4 promotes EOC cell invasion, cisplatin resistance and spheroid formation in vitro and tumor expansion in vivo. Mechanistically, spheroid formation and tumor cell invasion are due to CSPG4-stimulated expression of the mesenchymal transcription factor ZEB1. Furthermore, we have developed a novel monoclonal anti-CSGP4 antibody against the juxtamembrane domain of the core protein that limits CSPG4-stimulated ZEB1 expression, tumor cell invasion and promotes EOC apoptosis within spheroid cultures. We therefore propose that CSPG4 expression drives phenotypic heterogeneity and malignant progression in EOC tumors. These studies further demonstrate that CSPG4 expression levels are a potential diagnostic biomarker in EOC and indicate that targeting cells which express this oncoantigen could limit recurrence and improve outcomes in patients with EOC.
Copyright © 2021. Published by Elsevier Inc.