Wnt signaling modulator DKK1 as an immunotherapeutic target in ovarian cancer

Ilaria Betella, William J. Turbitt, Tomasz Szul, Binghao Wu, Alba Martinez, Ashwini Katre, Jaclyn A. Wall, Lyse Norian, Michael J. Birrer, Rebecca Arend

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Objectives: Wnt pathway mutations are a hallmark of endometrioid and clear cell subtypes of epithelial ovarian carcinoma (EOC). However, no drugs targeting the Wnt pathway in EOC are FDA-approved. Dickkopf-related protein 1 (DKK1), a modulator of the Wnt pathway, has emerged as a promising therapeutic target. We aimed to examine the role of DKK1 and the effects of a monoclonal antibody against DKK1 (DKN-01) in vivo and in a murine model of ovarian cancer. Methods: We examined in vitro the role of DKK1 and the effects of DKK1 inhibition in EOC cell lines. We then studied in vivo the role of DKN-01 and DKK1 overexpression on tumor burden and anti-tumor immune cell populations using the ID8 syngeneic mouse model. Results: DKN-01 did not phenotypically alter ES2 cells in vitro; however, DKK1 inhibition promoted Wnt signaling. Tumor burden and immune populations were unchanged in ID8 challenged mice treated with mDKN01. Mice challenged with ID8 cells overexpressing DKK1 had tumor burden similar to controls (p = 0.175). However, the overexpression of DKK1 decreased CD45+ leukocyte infiltration into the peritoneum (p = 0.008) and omentum (p = 0.032), reducing both natural killer (NK) and CD8 T cells, and reducing interferon-gamma (IFNγ) expression on activated CD8 T cells. Conclusions: Our results suggest that DKK1 inhibition does not affect tumor growth in the ID8 ovarian cancer model. DKK1 overexpression alters anti-tumor immune populations within the tumor microenvironment. Thus, our findings confirm DKK1 as a new therapeutic target in EOC and suggest that DKK1 inhibition may function best in a combinatorial, immune-modulatory therapy.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)765-774
Number of pages10
JournalGynecologic Oncology
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - Jun 2020


  • B-catenin
  • DKK1
  • Immunotherapy
  • Ovarian cancer
  • Wnt

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Obstetrics and Gynaecology


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