Analyses of publicly available genomics resources define FGF-2-expressing bladder carcinomas as EMT-prone, proliferative tumors with low mutation rates and high expression of CTLA-4, PD-1 and PD-L1

FGF-2 is overexpressed in a subset of invasive bladder carcinomas and its overexpression correlates with poor prognosis. Analyses of publicly available databases addressing the molecular mechanisms that may be responsible for the poor prognosis of these tumors, revealed that FGF-2 expression correlates positively with the expression of EMT-promoting transcription factors and with changes in gene expression that are characteristic of EMT. The same analyses also revealed that FGF-2 correlates negatively with the expression, mutation and copy number variations of FGFR-3, all of which are associated with non-invasive bladder carcinomas. Finally, they showed that FGF-2 expression correlates with the expression of FGFR-1, the expression of the IIIc variant of FGFR-2 and with the expression of Akt3. The latter observation is significant because our earlier studies had shown that Akt3 regulates FGFR-2 alternative splicing, shifting the balance toward the IIIc relative to the IIIb FGFR-2 splice variant. Since the IIIc variant is recognized by FGF-2, while the IIIb variant is not, we conclude that Akt3 may facilitate the FGF-2 response. FGF-2 is known to promote the expression of KDM2B, which functions in concert with EZH2 to repress the EZH2-targeting microRNA miR-101, activating a switch, which stably upregulates EZH2. TCGA data showing a correlation between KDM2B and EZH2 expression and Oncomine data, showing a correlation between KDM2B and tumor progression, strongly support the role of the FGF-2/KDM2B/miR-101/EZH2 pathway in bladder cancer. These observations combined, suggest a model according to which FGF-2 induces EMT, cell proliferation and cancer stem cell self-renewal by coupling the Akt3 and KDM2B-controlled pathways outlined above, in bladder carcinomas. Further analyses of publicly-available databases, revealed that FGF-2-expressing bladder carcinomas carry fewer genetic alterations and they tend to express high levels of CTLA-4, PD-1 and PD-L1, which suggests immune blockade by checkpoint activation. EMT, enhanced proliferation and immune checkpoint activation combined, may be responsible for the poor prognosis of FGF-2-expressing bladder carcinomas.

Signal transduction and targeted therapy. 2017 Mar 17 [Epub]

Elizabeth A McNiel, Philip N Tsichlis

Molecular Oncology Research Institute, Tufts Medical Center, Boston MA USA.