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OMICS. 2018 Jul;22(7):502-513. doi: 10.1089/omi.2018.0060.

A Systems Biology Approach to Understanding the Pathophysiology of High-Grade Serous Ovarian Cancer: Focus on Iron and Fatty Acid Metabolism.

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1 Center for Quantitative Medicine, UConn Health , Farmington, Connecticut.
2 Department of Biostatistics and Bioinformatics, Roswell Park Comprehensive Cancer Center , Buffalo, New York.
3 Department of Molecular Biology and Biophysics, UConn Health , Farmington, Connecticut.
4 Jackson Laboratory for Genomic Medicine , Farmington, Connecticut.


Ovarian cancer (OVC) is the most lethal of the gynecological malignancies, with diagnosis often occurring during advanced stages of the disease. Moreover, a majority of cases become refractory to chemotherapeutic approaches. Therefore, it is important to improve our understanding of the molecular dependencies underlying the disease to identify novel diagnostic and precision therapeutics for OVC. Cancer cells are known to sequester iron, which can potentiate cancer progression through mechanisms that have not yet been completely elucidated. We developed an algorithm to identify novel links between iron and pathways implicated in high-grade serous ovarian cancer (HGSOC), the most common and deadliest subtype of OVC, using microarray gene expression data from both clinical sources and an experimental model. Using our approach, we identified several links between fatty acid (FA) and iron metabolism, and subsequently developed a network for iron involvement in FA metabolism in HGSOC. FA import and synthesis pathways are upregulated in HGSOC and other cancers, but a link between these processes and iron-related genes has not yet been identified. We used the network to derive hypotheses of specific mechanisms by which iron and iron-related genes impact and interact with FA metabolic pathways to promote tumorigenesis. These results suggest a novel mechanism by which iron sequestration by cancer cells can potentiate cancer progression, and may provide novel targets for use in diagnosis and/or treatment of HGSOC.


fatty acid metabolism; iron; microarrays; ovarian cancer

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