Tumor dormancy is the extended period during which patients are asymptomatic before recurrence, and it represents a difficult phenomenon to target pharmacologically. The relapse of tumors, for instance arising from the interruption of dormant metastases, is frequently observed in ovarian cancer patients and determines poor survival. Inflammatory cytokines present in the tumor microenvironment likely contribute to such events. Cancer cell dormancy and autophagy are interconnected at the molecular level through ARH-I (DIRAS3) and BECLIN-1, two tumor suppressors often dysregulated in ovarian cancers. IL-6 disrupts autophagy in ovarian cancer cells via miRNAs downregulation of ARH-I, an effect contrasted by the nutraceutical protein restriction mimetic resveratrol (RV). By using three ovarian cancer cell lines with different genetic background in 2D and 3D models, the latter mimicking the growth of peritoneal metastases, we show that RV keeps the cancer cells in a dormant-like quiescent state contrasting the IL-6 growth-promoting activity. Mechanistically, this effect is mediated by BECLIN-1-dependent autophagy and relies on the availability of ARH-I. We also show that ARH-I (DIRAS3) is a bona fide target of miR-1305, a novel oncomiRNA upregulated by IL-6 and downregulated by RV. Clinically relevant, bioinformatic analysis of a transcriptomic database showed that the high expression of DIRAS3 and MAP1LC3B mRNAs together with that of CDKN1A, directing a cellular dormant phenotype, predicts better overall survival in ovarian cancer patients, and this correlates with MIR1305 downregulation. The possibility of maintaining a permanent cell dormancy in ovarian cancer by the chronic administration of RV should be considered as a therapeutic option to prevent the “awakening” of cancer cells in response to a permissive microenvironment, thus limiting the risk of tumor relapse and metastasis.
Keywords: 3D spheroids; ARH-I; DIRAS3; autophagy; epigenetics; interleukin-6; microRNA; ovarian cancer; tumor microenvironment.