Document Type


Date of Degree

Fall 2017

Degree Name

PhD (Doctor of Philosophy)

Degree In

Anatomy and Cell Biology

First Advisor

Dupuy, Adam J

Second Advisor

Goodheart, Michael J

First Committee Member

Engelhardt, John F

Second Committee Member

Cornell, Robert A

Third Committee Member

Domann, Frederick E

Fourth Committee Member

Yeaman, Charles

Fifth Committee Member

Dupuy, Adam J


Gynecological cancers present a tremendous disease burden worldwide. Endometrial cancer, the most common gynecological malignancy, is predominantly a disease of deranged glandular function. The mechanisms by which known environmental risk factors influence the mutational profile of endometrial cancer are poorly understood. Non-HPV vulvar cancer, on the other hand, is a very rare gynecological malignancy of vulvar squamous cells with little known about its pathogenesis. Surgical resection of vulvar cancer is associated with high post-surgical morbidity. Pivotal to improving treatment and outcomes for patients with gynecological cancers is an understanding of the molecular drivers unique to each tumor type.

To inform our understanding of endometrial gland regulation, I began my investigations with an assessment of normal endometrial adenogenesis in vivo and present the first evidence implicating the necessity of Sox17 in endometrial gland development. My data suggest Sox17 mediates adenogenesis via a non-cell autonomous mechanism from within the stromal compartment of the endometrium. I then interrogated the contribution of SOX17 to dysregulated glandular function in Type I endometrial adenocarcinoma in vitro. My findings reveal an oncogenic role of SOX17 in the Ishikawa Type 1 endometrial cancer cell line, with homozygous loss of SOX17 impairing cellular proliferation, blunting the cancer phenotype of these cells.

The majority of cancers, including gynecological cancers, develop from the accumulation of genetic mutations that occur sporadically in cells over time. The complexity and heterogeneity of solid tumors, however, renders the identification of mutations responsible for driving tumorigenesis difficult. The Sleeping Beauty (SB) insertional mutagenesis system can be used to streamline sporadic tumor formation and driver mutation identification. I present results from an initial attempt to develop an SB model of endometrial cancer and discuss ways in which the SB system can be harnessed to evaluate tumorigenesis in a variety of tissue types and microenvironmental contexts.

Finally, I present an SB model of metastatic vulvar cancer. Primary tumors from this model resulted in the identification of 76 novel candidate drivers of vulvar cancer, with the ubiquitin-specific peptidase, Usp9x, the most commonly disrupted gene in our screen. I show data suggesting that differential expression of Usp9x isoforms may underlie Usp9x-mediated tumorigenesis and preliminary data demonstrating the relevance of USP9X to human vulvar cancer.

Taken as a whole, these data contribute to our scientific understanding of gynecological tissue homeostasis and cancers, lay the foundation for the development of an SB model of endometrial cancer, and describe the first reported model system for studying HPV-naive vulvar cancer in vivo.


cancer, endometrial development, insertional mutagenesis, Sleeping Beauty transposon, Sox17, vulvar cancer


xii, 137 pages


Includes bibliographical references (pages 115-137).


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Copyright © 2017 Amy Guimaraes-Young