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Br J Cancer. 2007 Apr 10;96(7):1083-91. Epub 2007 Mar 13.

The receptor tyrosine kinase EphB4 is overexpressed in ovarian cancer, provides survival signals and predicts poor outcome.

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Department of Surgery, University of Southern California, Los Angeles, CA 90033, USA.


EphB4 is a member of the largest family of transmembrane receptor tyrosine kinases and plays critical roles in axonal pathfinding and blood vessel maturation. We wanted to determine the biological role of EphB4 in ovarian cancer. We studied the expression of EphB4 in seven normal ovarian specimens and 85 invasive ovarian carcinomas by immunohistochemistry. EphB4 expression was largely absent in normal ovarian surface epithelium, but was expressed in 86% of ovarian cancers. EphB4 expression was significantly associated with advanced stage of disease and the presence of ascites. Overexpression of EphB4 predicted poor survival in both univariate and multivariate analyses. We also studied the biological significance of EphB4 expression in ovarian tumour cells lines in vitro and in vivo. All five malignant ovarian tumour cell lines tested expressed higher levels of EphB4 compared with the two benign cell lines. Treatment of malignant, but not benign, ovarian tumour cell lines with progesterone, but not oestrogen, led to a 90% reduction in EphB4 levels that was associated with 50% reduction in cell survival. Inhibition of EphB4 expression by specific siRNA or antisense oligonucleotides significantly inhibited tumour cell viability by inducing apoptosis via activation of caspase-8, and also inhibited tumour cell invasion and migration. Furthermore, EphB4 antisense significantly inhibited growth of ovarian tumour xenografts and tumour microvasculature in vivo. Inhibition of EphB4 may hence have prognostic and therapeutic utility in ovarian carcinoma.

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