Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Biomedical Sciences

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Samuel Mok

Committee Member

Russell Broaddus

Committee Member

Gary Gallick

Committee Member

Kwong K Wong

Committee Member

Rosemarie Schmandt


Background: High grade serous carcinoma whether ovarian, tubal or primary peritoneal, continues to be the most lethal gynecologic malignancy in the USA. Although combination chemotherapy and aggressive surgical resection has improved survival in the past decade the majority of patients still succumb to chemo-resistant disease recurrence. It has recently been reported that amplification of 5q31-5q35.3 is associated with poor prognosis in patients with high grade serous ovarian carcinoma. Although the amplicon contains over 50 genes, it is notable for the presence of several members of the fibroblast growth factor signaling axis. In particular acidic fibroblast growth factor (FGF1) has been demonstrated to be one of the driving genes in mediating the observed prognostic effect of the amplicon in ovarian cancer patients. This study seeks to further validate the prognostic value of fibroblast growth receptor 4 (FGFR4), another candidate gene of the FGF/FGFR axis located in the same amplicon. The emphasis will be delineating the role the FGF1/FGFR4 signaling axis plays in high grade serous ovarian carcinoma; and test the feasibility of targeting the FGF1/FGFR4 axis therapeutically.

Materials and Methods: Spearman and Pearson correlation studies on data generated from array CGH and transcriptome profiling analyses on 51 microdissected tumor samples were used to identify genes located on chromosome 5q31-35.3 that showed significant correlation between DNA and mRNA copy numbers. Significant correlation between FGF1 and FGFR4 DNA copy numbers was further validated by qPCR analysis on DNA isolated from 51 microdissected tumor samples. Immunolocalization and quantification of FGFR4 expression were performed on paraffin embedded tissue samples from 183 cases of high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma. The expression was then correlated with clinical data to assess impact on survival. The expression of FGF1 and FGFR4 in vitro was quantified by real-time PCR and western blotting in six high-grade serous ovarian carcinoma cell lines and compared to those in human ovarian surface epithelial cells to identify overexpression. The effect of FGF1 on these cell lines after serum starvation was quantified for in vitro cellular proliferation, migration/invasion, chemoresistance and survival utilizing a combination of commercially available colorimetric, fluorometric and electrical impedance assays. FGFR4 expression was then transiently silenced via siRNA transfection and the effects on response to FGF1, cellular proliferation, and migration were quantified. To identify relevant cellular pathways involved, responsive cell lines were transduced with different transcription response elements using the Cignal-Lenti reporter system and treated with FGF1 with and without transient FGFR4 knock down. This was followed by western blot confirmation for the relevant phosphoproteins. Anti-FGF1 antibodies and FGFR trap proteins were used to attempt inhibition of FGF mediated phenotypic changes and relevant signaling in vitro. Orthotopic intraperitoneal tumors were established in nude mice using serous cell lines that have been previously transfected with luciferase expressing constructs. The mice were then treated with FGFR trap protein. Tumor progression was then followed via bioluminescent imaging. The FGFR4 gene from 52 clinical samples was sequenced to screen for mutations.

Results: FGFR4 DNA and mRNA copy numbers were significantly correlated and FGFR4 DNA copy number was significantly correlated with that of FGF1. Survival of patients with high FGFR4 expressing tumors was significantly shorter that those with low expression(median survival 28 vs 55 month p< 0.001) In a multivariate cox regression model FGFR expression significantly increased risk of death (HR 2.1, p<0.001). FGFR4 expression was significantly higher in all cell lines tested compared to HOSE, OVCA432 cell line in particular had very high expression suggesting amplification. FGF1 was also particularly overexpressed in OVCA432. FGF1 significantly increased cell survival after serum deprivation in all cell lines. Transient knock down of FGFR4 caused significant reduction in cell migration and proliferation in vitro and significantly decreased the proliferative effects of FGF1 in vitro. FGFR1, FGFR4 traps and anti-FGF1 antibodies did not show activity in vitro. OVCA432 transfected with the cignal lenti reporter system revealed significant activation of MAPK, NFkB and WNT pathways, western blotting confirmed the results. Reverse phase protein array (RPPA) analysis also showed activation of MAPK, AKT, WNT pathways and down regulation of E Cadherin. FGFR trap protein significantly reduced tumor growth in vivo in an orthotopic mouse model.

Conclusions: Overexpression and amplification of several members of the FGF signaling axis present on the amplicon 5q31-35.3 is a negative prognostic indicator in high grade serous ovarian carcinoma and may drive poor survival associated with that amplicon. Activation of The FGF signaling pathway leads to downstream activation of MAPK, AKT, WNT and NFkB pathways leading to a more aggressive cancer phenotype with increased tumor growth, evasion of apoptosis and increased migration and invasion. Inhibition of FGF pathway in vivo via FGFR trap protein leads to significantly decreased tumor growth in an orthotopic mouse model.


ovarian cancer FGF



To view the content in your browser, please download Adobe Reader or, alternately,
you may Download the file to your hard drive.

NOTE: The latest versions of Adobe Reader do not support viewing PDF files within Firefox on Mac OS and if you are using a modern (Intel) Mac, there is no official plugin for viewing PDF files within the browser window.