Pancreatic adenocarcinoma upregulated factor (PAUF) is a ligand of toll-like receptors (TLRs) and has been reported to be involved in pancreatic tumor development. However, the significance of PAUF expression in epithelial ovarian cancer remains unclear. We aimed to investigate the possible clinical significance of PAUF in epithelial ovarian cancer. We examined the link between PAUF and TLR4 in ovarian cancer cell lines. Recombinant PAUF induced cell activation and proliferation in ovarian cancer cell lines, whereas PAUF knockdown inhibited these properties. Subsequently, we assessed PAUF and TLR4 expression by immunohistochemistry on tissue microarray of 408 ovarian samples ranging from normal to metastatic. PAUF expression positively correlated with TLR4 expression. Overexpression of PAUF was associated with high-grade tumor (p = 0.014) and chemoresistant tumor (p = 0.017). Similarly, high expression of TLR4 correlated with advanced tumor stage (p = 0.002) and chemoresistant tumor (p = 0.001). Multivariate analysis indicated that PAUFhigh, TLR4high, and PAUFhigh/TLR4high expression are independent prognostic factor for progression-free survival, while TLR4high and PAUFhigh/TLR4high expression were independent prognostic factors for overall survival. Our results suggest that PAUF has a role in ovarian cancer progression and is a potential prognostic marker and novel chemotherapeutic target for ovarian cancer.
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