Date of Award

6-2016

Document Type

Thesis

Degree Name

Master of Science in Biology

Department

Biology

First Reader/Committee Chair

Bournias, Nicole

Abstract

Ovarian cancer is the fifth leading cause of cancer death in women between the ages of 35 and 74. With 22 thousand new cases and 15 thousand deaths annually ovarian cancer is among the most deadly cancers with a death to incidence ratio of 68%. With 70% of cases High Grade Serous Ovarian Carcinoma (HGSOC) is the most common type of ovarian cancer and causes 90% of ovarian cancer deaths. 80% of patients have reoccurrence within five years and only 15-30% of patients with recurrent metastatic ovarian cancer respond to current therapies, chemotherapy and surgery. One reason for the high reoccurrence rate is thought to be linked to the heterogeneity of tumors: there is evidence that, among tumor cells, a subpopulation is cancer stem cells (CSCs). Since CSCs are frequently drug resistant, when the patient undergoes chemotherapy many of the cells may die but the CSCs are left behind and the tumors can therefore regrow. CSCs are also more likely to undergo epithelial-mesenchymal transition which gives these cells the ability to more readily migrate and invade through the extracellular matrix, leaving the primary tumor to form metastases. One key inducer of EMT and therefore possibly of metastasis of particular interest in this project is SNAI1 (Snail). It is therefore the goal of this project to understand the growth, makeup and metastatic ability of HGSOC cell lines to test possible strategies to decrease growth of cancer and prevent metastasis.

In this thesis project the phenotype, CSC population make up, and functionality of various HGSOC cell lines was examined. The cell lines assessed were A2780, Kuramochi, OVSAHO, COV318, SKOV3 and OVCAR8. A Snail knockdown OVCAR8 cell line was also assessed as described above and in a xenograft model. It was determined that the cell lines show varying phenotype from epithelial like to mesenchymal like morphology and the cell lines have varying concentrations of cancer stem cells. It was also determined that the CSC population of the HGSOC cell lines were positive for both epithelial and mesenchymal markers in the same cells. OVCAR8 stood out as a hybrid line with both epithelial and mesenchymal characteristics and was therefore chosen for the Snail knockdown model. In the Snail knockdown we observed that CSC markers were reduced, however no change between control and knockdown was seen in the in vitro functional experiments. There was a difference seen between Snail knockdown and control in the in vivo mouse xenograft model. Snail knockdown showed a trend for decreasing tumor burden in both primary and metastatic tumors and showed a significant decrease in growth of metastatic tumor at day 43. Based on these results Snail may be an important target for cancer therapy.