Homeobox (HOX) family genes encode key transcription factors for embryogenesis and may be correlated with carcinogenesis. The aim of this study was to elucidate whether aberrant expression of HOX genes influences outcomes in epithelial ovarian cancer (EOC). Gene expression data and clinicopathologic information from 630 patients with EOC were downloaded from The Cancer Genome Atlas database. We explored correlations between expression levels of HOX gene family members and clinicopathological variables. Higher expression of HOXA1, A4, A5, A7, A10, A11, B13, C13, D1, and D3 was associated with advanced FIGO stage. Suboptimal residual disease after debulking surgery was significantly correlated with higher expression of HOXB9, B13, and C13. Additionally, patients with high expression of HOXC6 and C11 were significantly more likely to have poor performance status. Overall survival was significantly shorter in patients with high, rather than low, expression of two HOX genes (HOXA10 and B3), and significantly longer in patients with high rather than low HOXC5 expression. Dysregulated expression of the HOXA10, B3, and C5 was significantly correlated with overall survival in EOC patients. HOX gene expression levels are potentially useful as a prognostic indicator in EOC, and HOX genes may represent a novel and promising target for anticancer therapeutics.
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