Introduction: Epithelial cell adhesion molecule (EpCAM) is overexpressed in a wide variety of human cancers, including lung cancer, and its contribution to increased proliferation through up-regulating cell cycle accelerators such as cyclin A/E is well demonstrated in breast and gastric cancers. Nevertheless, very little is known about its role in survival of cancer cells. In addition, functional role of EpCAM in the pathogenesis of lung cancer remains to be explored.

Matrials and methods: 18 human non-small cell lung cancer cell lines and an immortalized normal human bronchial epithelial cell (HBEC4) lines were used. EpCAM expression was measured by quantitative real-time PCR (qRT-PCR) and FACS. RNA interference (RNAi)-mediated gene silencing for EpCAM was done in three non-small cell lung cancer cell and HBEC4 lines. Cell proliferation was measured by WST-1 and clonogenic growth was measured by liquid and soft agar colony formation assays. Apoptosis was evaluated by annexin V/7-AAD staining. FACS with PI staining was done to examine apoptosis and cell cycle. p27kip1 expression was evaluated by western blot analysis. In vitro invasion assay was done by using transwell chambers layered with matrigel and invading cells were stained and counted.

Results: We analyzed the expression of EpCAM in a panel of lung cancer cell and HBEC4 lines and found that most of lung cancer cell lines expressed EpCAM. EpCAM knockdown suppressed proliferation and clonogenic growth of two EpCAM-expressing lung cancer cell lines in anchorage dependent and independent conditions. EpCAM knockdown suppressed invasiveness in a highly invasive line but not in a lowly invasive cell line. In addition, EpCAM knockdown induced massive apoptosis in both cell lines as well as another EpCAM-expressing lung cancer cell line but to a much lesser extent in HBEC4 line. EpCAM knockdown caused lung cancer cells to have increased responsiveness to contact inhibition in part through up-regulating p27kip1 cyclin dependent kinase inhibitor. Conclusion: These results demonstrate that EpCAM substantially contributes to the pathogenesis of lung cancer, especially in its survival, and the development of EpCAM-targeted therapy for lung cancer may have promise.

Citation Format: {Authors}. {Abstract title} [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 102nd Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2011 Apr 2-6; Orlando, FL. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2011;71(8 Suppl):Abstract nr 1657. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2011-1657