Background: Epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC) is the most lethal gynaecological malignancy with over 80% of cases already disseminated at diagnosis and facing a dismal five-year survival rate of 35%. EOC cells often spread to the greater omentum where they take-up cholesterol. Excessive amounts of cholesterol can be cytocidal, suggesting that cholesterol efflux through transporters may be important to maintain homeostasis, and this may explain the observation that high expression of the ATP-binding cassette A1 (ABCA1) cholesterol transporter has been associated with poor outcome in EOC patients. Methods: ABCA1 expression was silenced in EOC cells to investigate the effect of inhibiting cholesterol efflux on EOC biology through growth and migration assays, three-dimensional spheroid culture and cholesterol quantification. Results: ABCA1 suppression significantly reduced the growth, motility and colony formation of EOC cell lines as well as the size of EOC spheroids, whilst stimulating expression of ABCA1 reversed these effects. In serous EOC cells, ABCA1 suppression induced accumulation of cholesterol. Lowering cholesterol levels using methyl-B-cyclodextrin rescued the effect of ABCA1 suppression, restoring EOC growth. Furthermore, we identified FDA-approved agents that induced cholesterol accumulation and elicited cytocidal effects in EOC cells. Conclusions: Our data demonstrate the importance of ABCA1 in maintaining cholesterol balance and malignant properties in EOC cells, highlighting its potential as a therapeutic target for this disease.
- epithelial ovarian cancer