Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, P.R.China.
Ovarian cancer is a highly lethal disease with poor prognosis and especially in high-grade tumor. Emerging evidence has reported that aberrant upregulation and activation of GRB7, ERK as well as FOXM1 are closely associated with aggresivenesss of human cancers. However, the interplay between these factors in the pathogenesis of human cancers still remains unclear. In this study, we found that GRB7, ERK phosphorylation and FOXM1 were frequently increased and associated with high-grade tumors, as well as a high tendency in association with advanced stage ovarian cancer by immunohistochemical analysis. Intriguingly, the expressions of GRB7 , ERK phosphorylation and FOXM1 showed a significant stepwise increase pattern along Grade 1 to Grade 3ovarian cancers. Biochemical studies using western blot analysis demonstrated that enforced expression or knockdown of GRB7 showed GRB7 could elevate the levels of ERK phosphorylation and FOXM1, whereas enforced expression of FOXM1 could not alter levels of GRB7 and ERK phosphorylation. But inhibition of ERK signaling by U0126 or PD98059 could reduce the level of FOXM1 in GRB7-overexpressing ovarian cancer cells, suggesting that GRB7, ERK and FOXM1 are regulated orderly. Moreover, inhibition of ERK activity by U0126 or PD98059, or decreased FOXM1 expression by Thiostrepton significantly inhibited cell migration/invasion, tumor growth in vitro and in vivo. Collectively, our findings confer that targeting GRB7/ERK/FOXM1 signaling cascade may be a promising molecular therapeutic choice in combating ovarian cancer.