Biomedicines (Dec 2022)

Combined Usage of MDK Inhibitor Augments Interferon-γ Anti-Tumor Activity in the SKOV3 Human Ovarian Cancer Cell Line

  • Qun Liu,
  • Jingyu Tan,
  • Zhenguo Zhao,
  • Ruijun Li,
  • Luyu Zheng,
  • Xiangyu Chen,
  • Lina Li,
  • Xichen Dong,
  • Tao Wen,
  • Jian Liu

Journal volume & issue
Vol. 11, no. 1
p. 8


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Ovarian cancer (OC) is a particularly lethal disease due to intratumoral heterogeneity, resistance to traditional chemotherapy, and poor response to targeted therapy and immunotherapy. Interferon-γ (IFN-γ) is an attractive therapeutic cytokine, with positive responses achieved in multiple OC clinical trials. However, clinical application of IFN-γ in OC is still hindered, due to the severe toxicity when used at higher levels, as well as the considerable pro-metastatic adverse effect when used at lower levels. Thus, an effective combined intervention is needed to enhance the anti-tumor efficacy of IFN-γ and to suppress the IFN-γ-induced metastasis. Here, we uncovered that OC cells develop an adaptive strategy by upregulating midkine (MDK) to counteract the IFN-γ-induced anti-tumor activity and to fuel IFN-γ-induced metastasis. We showed that MDK is a critical downstream target of IFN-γ in OC, and that this regulation acts in a dose-dependent manner and is mediated by STAT1. Gain-of-function studies showed that MDK overexpression promotes cell proliferation and metastasis in OC, indicating that IFN-γ-activated MDK may antagonize IFN-γ in inhibiting OC proliferation but synergize IFN-γ in promoting OC metastasis. Subsequently, we assessed the influence of MDK inhibition on IFN-γ-induced anti-proliferation and pro-metastasis effects using an MDK inhibitor (iMDK), and we found that MDK inhibition robustly enhanced IFN-γ-induced growth inhibition (all CIs < 0.1) and reversed IFN-γ-driven epithelial-to-mesenchymal transition (EMT) and metastasis in OC in vitro. Collectively, these data identify an IFN-γ responsive protein, MDK, in counteracting anti-proliferation while endowing the pro-metastatic role of IFN-γ in cancer treatment, and we therefore propose the combined utilization of the MDK inhibitor in IFN-γ-based therapies in future OC treatment.