Date of Graduation


Document Type

Thesis (MS)

Program Affiliation

Cancer Biology

Degree Name

Masters of Science (MS)

Advisor/Committee Chair

Anil K. Sood, MD

Committee Member

Vahid Afshar-Kharghan, MD

Committee Member

Gary Gallick, PhD

Committee Member

Gabriel Lopez-Berestein, MD

Committee Member

Ana Tari, PhD


Platelets represent one of the largest storage pools of angiogenic and oncogenic growth factors in the human body. The observation that thrombocytosis (platelet count >450,000/uL) occurs in patients with solid malignancies was made over 100 years ago. However, the clinical and biological implications as well as the underlying mechanism of paraneoplastic thrombocytosis associated with ovarian carcinoma remains unknown and were the focus of the current study.

Following IRB approval, patient data were collected on 619 patients from 4 U.S. centers and used to test associations between platelet count at initial diagnosis, clinicopathologic factors, and outcome. In vitro effects of plasma-purified platelets on ovarian cancer cell proliferation, docetaxel-induced apoptosis, and migration were evaluated using BrdU-PI flow cytometric and two-chamber chemotaxis assays. In vivo effects of platelet depletion on tumor growth, proliferation, apoptosis, and angiogenesis were examined using an anti-platelet antibody (anti-mouse glycoprotein 1ba, Emfret) to reduce platelets by 50%. Complete blood counts and number of mature megakaryocytes in the spleen and bone marrow were compared between control mice and ovarian cancer-bearing mice. Plasma levels of key megakaryo- and thrombopoietic factors including thrombopoietin (TPO), IL-1a, IL-3, IL-4, IL-6, IL-11, G-CSF, GM-CSF, stem cell factor, and FLT-3 ligand were assayed in a subset of 150 patients at the time of initial diagnosis with advanced stage, high grade epithelial ovarian cancer using immunobead-based cytokine profiling coupled with the Luminex® xMAP platform. Plasma cytokines significantly associated with thrombocytosis in ovarian cancer patients were subsequently evaluated in mouse models of ovarian cancer using ELISA immunoassays. The results of human and mouse plasma cytokine profiling were used to inform subsequent in vivo studies evaluating the effect of siRNA-induced silencing of select megakaryo- and thrombopoietic cytokines on paraneoplastic thrombocytosis.

Thirty-one percent of patients had thrombocytosis at initial diagnosis. Compared to patients with normal platelet counts, women with thrombocytosis were significantly more likely to have advanced stage disease (p<0.001) and poor median progression-free (0.94 vs 1.35 years, p<0.001) and overall survival (2.62 vs 4.65 years, p<0.001). On multivariate analysis, thrombocytosis remained an independent predictor of decreased overall survival. Our analysis revealed that thrombocytosis significantly increases the risk of VTE in ovarian cancer patients and that thrombocytosis is an independent predictor of increased mortality in women who do develop a blood clot. Platelets increased ovarian cancer cell proliferation and migration by 4.1- and 2.8-fold (p<0.01), respectively. Platelets reduced docetaxel-induced apoptosis in ovarian cancer cells by 2-fold (p<0.001). In vivo, platelet depletion reduced tumor growth by 50%. Staining of in vivo specimens revealed decreased tumor cell proliferation (p<0.001) and increased tumor and endothelial cell apoptosis (p<0.01). Platelet depletion also significantly decreased microvessel density and pericyte coverage (p<0.001). Platelet counts increase by 31-130% in mice with invasive ovarian cancer compared to controls (p<0.01) and strongly correlate with mean megakaryocyte counts in the spleen and bone marrow (r=0.95, p<0.05). Plasma levels of TPO, IL-6, and G-CSF were significantly increased in ovarian cancer patients with thrombocytosis. Plasma levels of the same cytokines were found to be significantly elevated in orthotopic mouse models of ovarian cancer, which consistently develop paraneoplastic thromocytosis. Silencing TPO, IL-6, and G-CSF significantly abrogated paraneoplastic thrombocytosis in vivo.

This study provides new understanding of the clinical and biological significance of paraneoplastic thrombocytosis in ovarian cancer and uncovers key humoral factors driving this process. Blocking the development of paraneoplastic thrombocytosis and interfering with platelet-cancer cell interactions could represent novel therapeutic strategies.


platelets, ovarian cancer, thrombopoiesis, megakaryopoiesis



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