Seminal plasma enhances cervical adenocarcinoma cell proliferation and tumour growth in vivo

Cervical cancer is one of the leading causes of cancer-related death in women in sub-Saharan Africa. Extensive evidence has shown that cervical cancer and its precursor lesions are caused by Human papillomavirus (HPV) infection. Although the vast majority of HPV infections are naturally resolved, failure to eradicate infected cells has been shown to promote viral persistence and tumorigenesis. Furthermore, following neoplastic transformation, exposure of cervical epithelial cells to inflammatory mediators either directly or via the systemic circulation may enhance progression of the disease. It is well recognised that seminal plasma contains an abundance of inflammatory mediators, which are identified as regulators of tumour growth. Here we investigated the role of seminal plasma in regulating neoplastic cervical epithelial cell growth and tumorigenesis. Using HeLa cervical adenocarcinoma cells, we found that seminal plasma (SP) induced the expression of the inflammatory enzymes, prostaglandin endoperoxide synthase (PTGS1 and PTGS2), cytokines interleukin (IL) -6, and -11 and vascular endothelial growth factor-A(VEGF-A). To investigate the role of SP on tumour cell growth in vivo, we xenografted HeLa cells subcutaneously into the dorsal flank of nude mice. Intra-peritoneal administration of SP rapidly and significantly enhanced the tumour growth rate and size of HeLa cell xenografts in nude mice. As observed in vitro, we found that SP induced expression of inflammatory PTGS enzymes, cytokines and VEGF-A in vivo. Furthermore we found that SP enhances blood vessel size in HeLa cell xenografts. Finally we show that SP-induced cytokine production, VEGF-A expression and cell proliferation are mediated via the induction of the inflammatory PTGS pathway.