Immunotherapy targeting folate receptor induces cell death associated with autophagy in ovarian cancer.


Journal Article

Cancer cells are highly dependent on folate metabolism, making them susceptible to drugs that inhibit folate receptor activities. Targeting overexpressed folate receptor alpha (FRα) in cancer cells offers a therapeutic opportunity. We investigated the functional mechanisms of MORAB-003 (farletuzumab), a humanized mAb against FRα, in ovarian cancer models.We first examined FRα expression in an array of human ovarian cancer cell lines and then assessed the in vivo effect of MORAB-003 on tumor growth and progression in several orthotopic mouse models of ovarian cancer derived from these cell lines. Molecular mechanisms of tumor cell death induced by MORAB-003 were investigated by cDNA and protein expression profiling analysis. Mechanistic studies were performed to determine the role of autophagy in MORAB-003-induced cell death.MORAB-003 significantly decreased tumor growth in the high-FRα IGROV1 and SKOV3ip1 models but not in the low-FRα A2780 model. MORAB-003 reduced proliferation, but had no significant effect on apoptosis. Protein expression and cDNA microarray analyses showed that MORAB-003 regulated an array of autophagy-related genes. It also significantly increased expression of LC3 isoform II and enriched autophagic vacuolization. Blocking autophagy with hydroxychloroquine or bafilomycin A1 reversed the growth inhibition induced by MORAB-003. In addition, alteration of FOLR1 gene copy number significantly correlated with shorter disease-free survival in patients with ovarian serous cancer.MORAB-003 displays prominent antitumor activity in ovarian cancer models expressing FRα at high levels. Blockade of folate receptor by MORAB-003 induced sustained autophagy and suppressed cell proliferation.

Full Text

Duke Authors

Cited Authors

  • Wen, Y; Graybill, WS; Previs, RA; Hu, W; Ivan, C; Mangala, LS; Zand, B; Nick, AM; Jennings, NB; Dalton, HJ; Sehgal, V; Ram, P; Lee, J-S; Vivas-Mejia, PE; Coleman, RL; Sood, AK

Published Date

  • January 2015

Published In

Volume / Issue

  • 21 / 2

Start / End Page

  • 448 - 459

PubMed ID

  • 25416196

Pubmed Central ID

  • 25416196

International Standard Serial Number (ISSN)

  • 1078-0432

Digital Object Identifier (DOI)

  • 10.1158/1078-0432.CCR-14-1578


  • eng