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Cancer Res. 2013 Sep 1;73(17):5544-55. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-12-4177. Epub 2013 Jul 18.

SOX2 expression associates with stem cell state in human ovarian carcinoma.

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Departments of Internal Medicine II and Preclinical Imaging and Radiopharmacy, Laboratory for Preclinical Imaging and Imaging Technology of the Werner Siemens-Foundation, University of Tuebingen, Tuebingen, Germany.


The SRY-related HMG-box family of transcription factors member SOX2 regulates stemness and pluripotency in embryonic stem cells and plays important roles during early embryogenesis. More recently, SOX2 expression was documented in several tumor types including ovarian carcinoma, suggesting an involvement of SOX2 in regulation of cancer stem cells (CSC). Intriguingly, however, studies exploring the predictive value of SOX2 protein expression with respect to histopathologic and clinical parameters report contradictory results in individual tumors, indicating that SOX2 may play tumor-specific roles. In this report, we analyze the functional relevance of SOX2 expression in human ovarian carcinoma. We report that in human serous ovarian carcinoma (SOC) cells, SOX2 expression increases the expression of CSC markers, the potential to form tumor spheres, and the in vivo tumor-initiating capacity, while leaving cellular proliferation unaltered. Moreover, SOX2-expressing cells display enhanced apoptosis resistance in response to conventional chemotherapies and TRAIL. Hence, our data show that SOX2 associates with stem cell state in ovarian carcinoma and induction of SOX2 imposes CSC properties on SOC cells. We propose the existence of SOX2-expressing ovarian CSCs as a mechanism of tumor aggressiveness and therapy resistance in human SOC.

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