A loop of cancer-stroma-cancer interaction promotes peritoneal metastasis of ovarian cancer via TNFα-TGFα-EGFR

Peritoneum is the most common site for ovarian cancer metastasis. Here we investigate how cancer epigenetics regulates reciprocal tumour-stromal interactions in peritoneal metastasis of ovarian cancer. Firstly, we find that omental stromal fibroblasts enhance colony formation of metastatic ovarian cancer cells, and de novo expression of transforming growth factor-alpha (TGF-α) is induced in stromal fibroblasts co-cultured with ovarian cancer cells. We also observed an over-expression of tumour necrosis factor-alpha (TNF-α) in ovarian cancer cells, which is regulated by promoter DNA hypomethylation as well as chromatin remodelling. Interestingly, this ovarian cancer-derived TNF-α induces TGF-α transcription in stromal fibroblasts through nuclear factor-kB (NF-kB). We further show that TGF-α secreted by stromal fibroblasts in turn promotes peritoneal metastasis of ovarian cancer through epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) signalling. Finally, we identify a TNFα-TGFα-EGFR interacting loop between tumour and stromal compartments of human omental metastases. Our results therefore demonstrate cancer epigenetics induces a loop of cancer-stroma-cancer interaction in omental microenvironment that promotes peritoneal metastasis of ovarian cancer cells via TNFα-TGFα-EGFR.