Journal Article

Modulation of AKT activity is associated with reversible dormancy in ascites-derived epithelial ovarian cancer spheroids

Rohann J. M. Correa, Teresa Peart, Yudith Ramos Valdes, Gabriel E. DiMattia and Trevor G. Shepherd

in Carcinogenesis

Volume 33, issue 1, pages 49-58
Published in print January 2012 | ISSN: 0143-3334
Published online October 2011 | e-ISSN: 1460-2180 | DOI:
Modulation of AKT activity is associated with reversible dormancy in ascites-derived epithelial ovarian cancer spheroids

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  • Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics


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Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) metastasis is a direct contributor to high recurrence and low survival for patients with this disease. Metastasis in EOC occurs by cell exfoliation from the primary tumor into the fluid-filled peritoneal cavity, persistence of these cells as non-adherent multicellular aggregates or spheroids and reattachment of spheroids to form secondary lesions. We have recovered native spheroids from ascites fluid and demonstrated that EOC cells within these structures exhibit reduced proliferation, yet regain the capacity to attach and reinitiate cell division. To model this process in vitro for further investigation, primary EOC cells from patient peritoneal fluid were cultured under non-adherent conditions. Here we show that these cells naturally form spheroids resembling those observed in ascites. Spheroids exhibit reduced cell proliferation and a protein expression pattern consistent with cellular quiescence: specifically, decreased phospho-AKT and p45/SKP2 with a concomitant increase in p130/RBL2 and p27Kip1. However, when spheroids are seeded to an adherent surface, reattachment occurs rapidly and is followed by reinitiation of AKT-dependent cell proliferation. These results were strikingly consistent among numerous clinical specimens and were corroborated in the EOC cell line OVCAR3. Therefore, our data reveal that EOC cells become quiescent when forming spheroids, but reactivate proliferative mechanisms upon attachment to a permissive substratum. Overall, this work utilizes a novel in vitro model of EOC metastasis that employs primary human EOC cells and introduces the important concept of reversible dormancy in EOC pathogenesis.

Journal Article.  5766 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Clinical Cytogenetics and Molecular Genetics

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