High-grade serous ovarian carcinoma (HGSOC) is the deadliest of gynecological cancers due to its high recurrence rate and acquired chemoresistance. RAS/MEK/ERK pathway activation is linked to cell proliferation and therapeutic resistance, but the role of MEK1/2-ERK1/2 pathway in HGSOC is poorly investigated. We evaluated MEK1/2 pathway activity in clinical HGSOC samples and ovarian cancer cell lines using immunohistochemistry, immunoblotting, and RT-qPCR. HGSOC cell lines were used to assess immediate and lasting effects of MEK1/2 inhibition with tram-etinib in vitro. Trametinib effect on tumor growth in vivo was investigated using mouse xenografts. MEK1/2 pathway is hyperactivated in HGSOC and is further stimulated by cisplatin treatment. Trametinib treatment causes cell cycle arrest in G1/0-phase and reduces tumor growth rate in vivo but does not induce cell death or reduce fraction of CD133+ stem-like cells, while increasing expression of stemness-associated genes instead. Transient trametinib treatment causes long-term increase in a subpopulation of cells with high aldehyde dehydrogenase (ALDH)1 activity that can survive and grow in non-adherent conditions. We conclude that MEK1/2 inhibition may be a promising approach to suppress ovarian cancer growth as a maintenance therapy. Promotion of stem-like properties upon MEK1/2 inhibition suggests a possible mechanism of resistance, so a combination with CSC-targeting drugs should be considered.
Bibliographical noteFunding Information:
Funding: This research was funded in part by the Michigan Ovarian Cancer Alliance (MIOCA) and The Foundation for Women’s Cancer (FWC) awards to I.C., R.J.B is supported by NIH NCI 1R01CA238315.
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.
- Cancer stem-like cells
- High-grade serous ovarian carcinoma