Background: Prior research demonstrates a protective role for oxytocin in ovarian cancer based on its anti-proliferative, anti-migratory, and anti-invasive effects in vitro and in vivo. However, the role of endogenous oxytocin has not been examined in ovarian cancer patients. Oxytocin also has anti-inflammatory properties that have not been examined in cancer. The purpose of this investigation was to examine relationships between endogenous oxytocin, tumor-associated inflammation (interleukin-6), and survival in advanced epithelial ovarian cancer patients. Methods: Tumor microenvironment (ascites) and plasma oxytocin levels were analyzed via ELISA on extracted samples obtained from 79 patients. In vitro models were used to characterize oxytocin and oxytocin receptor expression in four ovarian cancer cell lines and to investigate direct anti-inflammatory effects of oxytocin on tumor cell secretion of interleukin-6. High and variable levels of oxytocin were observed in ascites, up to 200 times greater than in plasma. Higher levels of ascites oxytocin were associated with lower levels of systemic and tumor-associated interleukin-6, an inflammatory cytokine implicated in ovarian tumor progression. Oxytocin also attenuated interleukin-6 secretion from multiple ovarian tumor cell lines in vitro. Higher levels of ascites oxytocin were associated with a significant survival advantage and statistical mediation analyses suggested this effect was partially mediated by interleukin-6. Conclusions: These data identify a previously unacknowledged hormone in the ovarian tumor microenvironment and provide initial evidence that oxytocin has protective effects in ovarian cancer via anti-inflammatory mechanisms. Future studies should examine the therapeutic utility of oxytocin.
- Ovarian neoplasms
- Tumor microenvironment