Fibulin-3 promotes muscle-invasive bladder cancer

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Urothelial carcinoma is the most common type of bladder cancer and can be categorized as either non-muscle-invasive (Ta-T1) or muscle-invasive (≥ T2). The majority of bladder cancers are non-muscle-invasive at presentation; however, the recurrence rate for these tumors is high and a subset can progress to T2. In this study, we aimed to identify genes differentially expressed between T1 vs T2 bladder cancer to identify key regulators of bladder cancer progression and/or invasion. We performed RNA-Seq on T1 and T2 bladder cancer tissues and used publicly available bladder cancer profiling studies to prioritize differentially expressed genes for validation and functional assessment. This integrative approach nominated an extracellular matrix glycoprotein, fibulin-3 (FBLN3, also known as EFEMP1), as being highly expressed in T2 vs T1 bladder cancer and aggressive vs indolent disease. We confirmed the overexpression of fibulin-3 in ≥ T2 vs non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) by quantitative reverse transcriptase-PCR. Consistent with these findings, fibulin-3 expression level correlated with the invasive ability of several bladder cancer cell lines and modulation of fibulin-3 expression directly affected invasion. Fibulin-3 knockdown in bladder cancer cells decreased the incidence of MIBCs in a murine orthotopic bladder cancer model and decreased the expression of insulin-like growth factor-binding protein-5 (IGFBP5). Restoring IGFBP5 in these cells rescued their invasive and migratory potential. These results indicate that fibulin-3 serves as a pro-invasive factor in bladder cancer, which may be mediated through modulation of IGFBP5 expression. This also suggests fibulin-3 and IGFBP5 may have potential as biomarkers of aggressive bladder cancer or therapeutic targets.

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