The extracellular matrix protein fibulin-3/EFEMP1 promotes pleural mesothelioma growth by activation of PI3K/Akt signaling

Frontiers in Oncology 2022 October 11 [Link]

Arivazhagan Roshini, Chandra Goparaju, Somanath Kundu, Mohan S Nandhu, Sharon L Longo, John A Longo, Joan Chou, Frank A Middleton, Harvey I Pass, Mariano S Viapiano


Malignant pleural mesothelioma (MPM) is an aggressive tumor with poor prognosis and limited therapeutic options. The extracellular matrix protein fibulin-3/EFEMP1 accumulates in the pleural effusions of MPM patients and has been proposed as a prognostic biomarker of these tumors. However, it is entirely unknown whether fibulin-3 plays a functional role on MPM growth and progression. Here, we demonstrate that fibulin-3 is upregulated in MPM tissue, promotes the malignant behavior of MPM cells, and can be targeted to reduce tumor progression. Overexpression of fibulin-3 increased the viability, clonogenic capacity and invasion of mesothelial cells, whereas fibulin-3 knockdown decreased these phenotypic traits as well as chemoresistance in MPM cells. At the molecular level, fibulin-3 activated PI3K/Akt signaling and increased the expression of a PI3K-dependent gene signature associated with cell adhesion, motility, and invasion. These pro-tumoral effects of fibulin-3 on MPM cells were disrupted by PI3K inhibition as well as by a novel, function-blocking, anti-fibulin-3 chimeric antibody. Anti-fibulin-3 antibody therapy tested in two orthotopic models of MPM inhibited fibulin-3 signaling, resulting in decreased tumor cell proliferation, reduced tumor growth, and extended animal survival. Taken together, these results demonstrate for the first time that fibulin-3 is not only a prognostic factor of MPM but also a relevant molecular target in these tumors. Further development of anti-fibulin-3 approaches are proposed to increase early detection and therapeutic impact against MPM.