BECN1 and BRCA1 Deficiency Sensitizes Ovarian Cancer to Platinum Therapy and Confers Better Prognosis

Amreen Salwa  1 Alessandra Ferraresi  1 Menaka Chinthakindi  1 Letizia Vallino  1 Chiara Vidoni  1 Danny N Dhanasekaran  2 Ciro Isidoro  1



1 Laboratory of Molecular Pathology, Department of Health Sciences, Università del Piemonte Orientale “A. Avogadro”, Via Solaroli 17, 28100 Novara, Italy.

2 Stephenson Cancer Center, The University of Oklahoma Health Sciences Center, Oklahoma City, OK 73104, USA.


PMID: 33670664

PMCID: PMC7922320

DOI: 10.3390/biomedicines9020207



Background: BRCA1, BECN1 and TP53 are three tumor suppressor genes located on chromosome 17 and frequently found deleted, silenced, or mutated in many cancers. These genes are involved in autophagy, apoptosis, and drug resistance in ovarian cancer. Haploinsufficiency or loss-of-function of either TP53, BRCA1 or BECN1 correlates with enhanced predisposition to cancer development and progression, and chemoresistance. Expectedly, the combined altered expression of these three tumor suppressor genes worsens the prognosis of ovarian cancer patients. However, whether such a genotypic pattern indeed affects the chemo-responsiveness to standard chemotherapy thus worsening patients’ survival has not been validated in a large cohort of ovarian cancer patients.

Aim: We interrogated datasets from the TCGA database to analyze how the expression of these three tumor suppressor genes impacts on the clinical response to platinum-based chemotherapy thus affecting the survival of ovarian cancer patients.

Results and conclusion: Compared to EOC with homozygous expression of BECN1 and BRCA1, tumors expressing low mRNA expression of these two tumor suppressor genes (either because of shallow (monoallelic) co-deletion or of promoter hypermethylation), showed higher sensitivity to platinum-based therapies and were associated with a better prognosis of ovarian cancer-bearing patients. This outcome was independent of TP53 status, though it was statistically more significant in the cohort of patients with mutated TP53. Thus, sensitivity to platinum therapy (and probably to other chemotherapeutics) correlates with low expression of a combination of critical tumor suppressor genes. Our study highlights the importance of thoroughly assessing the genetic lesions of the most frequently mutated genes to stratify the patients in view of a personalized therapy. More importantly, the present findings suggest that targeting the function of both BECN1 and BRCA1 could be a strategy to restore chemosensitivity in refractory tumors.



Keywords: apoptosis; autophagy; chemoresistance; epigenetics; genome sequencing; ovarian cancer; personalized medicine; prognosis; tumor suppressor genes.

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