Theranostics 2018; 8(5):1270-1285. doi:10.7150/thno.22536 This issue

Research Paper

GRO-α and IL-8 enhance ovarian cancer metastatic potential via the CXCR2-mediated TAK1/NFκB signaling cascade

Mingo Ming-Ho Yung1, Hermit Wai-Man Tang1, Patty Chun-Hui Cai1, Thomas Ho-Yin Leung1, Siew-Fei Ngu1, Karen Kar-Loen Chan1, Dakang Xu2, Huijuan Yang3,4, Hextan Yuen-Sheung Ngan1, David Wai Chan1✉

1. Department of Obstetrics and Gynaecology, LKS Faculty of Medicine, The University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong SAR, P. R. China.
2. Faculty of Medical Laboratory Science, Ruijin Hospital, School of Medicine, Shanghai Jiao Tong University, Shanghai 200030, People's Republic of China.
3. Department of Gynecological Oncology, Fudan University Shanghai Cancer Center, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200032, People's Republic of China.
4. Department of Oncology, Shanghai Medical College, Fudan University, Shanghai, 200032, People's Republic of China.

This is an open access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY-NC) license ( See for full terms and conditions.
Yung MMH, Tang HWM, Cai PCH, Leung THY, Ngu SF, Chan KKL, Xu D, Yang H, Ngan HYS, Chan DW. GRO-α and IL-8 enhance ovarian cancer metastatic potential via the CXCR2-mediated TAK1/NFκB signaling cascade. Theranostics 2018; 8(5):1270-1285. doi:10.7150/thno.22536. Available from

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Graphic abstract

Intraperitoneal metastasis is a common occurrence and is usually involved in the poor prognosis of ovarian cancer. Its specific metastatic pattern implies that certain indispensable microenvironmental factors secreted in the peritoneal cavity can direct metastatic ovarian cancer cells to permissive niches for secondary lesion formation. However, the underlying molecular mechanisms are ill defined. Herein, we report that GRO-α and IL-8 are predominately upregulated in culture media derived from either normal or cancerous omenta and are associated with increased ovarian cancer aggressiveness.

Methods: OCM was established from culture medium of fresh human omental tissues. Primary and metastatic ovarian cancer cell lines were generated from human tumor tissues and verified by specific antibodies. The functional roles of GRO-α, IL-8, and their specific receptor CXCR2 were examined by neutralizing antibodies, shRNA gene knockdown, CRISPR/Cas9 gene knockout and pharmaceutical CXCR2 inhibitor SB225002. The oncogenic properties of ovarian cancer cells were examined by in vitro and in vivo mouse models.

Results: Both GRO-α and IL-8 can activate TAK1/NFκB signaling via the CXCR2 receptor. Intriguingly, TAK1/NFκB signaling activity was higher in metastatic ovarian cancer cells; this higher activity makes them more susceptible to OCM-induced tumor aggressiveness. Treatment of ovarian cancer cells with GRO-α and IL-8 neutralizing antibodies or ablation of CXCR2 by shRNA gene knockdown, CRISPR/Cas9 gene knockout, or CXCR2 inhibitor SB225002 treatment significantly attenuated TAK1/NFκB signaling and decreased in vitro and in vivo oncogenic and metastatic potential, suggesting CXCR2 plays a key role in the GRO-α and IL-8-governed metastatic spreading of ovarian cancer cells in the intraperitoneal cavity.

Conclusion: This study highlights the significance of GRO-α and IL-8 as the key chemokines in the peritoneal tumor microenvironment and suggests the utility of targeting their receptor CXCR2 as a potential target-based therapy for peritoneal metastases of ovarian cancer.

Keywords: chemokines, IL-8, GRO-α, CXCR2, NFκB signaling, ovarian cancer