Peritoneal dissemination is the most frequent, incurable metastasis occurring in patients with advanced gastric cancer (GC). However, molecular mechanisms driving peritoneal dissemination still remain poorly understood. Here, we aimed to provide novel insights into the molecular mechanisms that drive the peritoneal dissemination of GC. We performed combined expression analysis with in vivo-selected metastatic cell lines and samples from 200 GC patients to identify driver genes of peritoneal dissemination. The driver-gene functions associated with GC dissemination were examined using a mouse xenograft model. We identified a peritoneal dissemination-associated expression signature, whose profile correlated with those of genes related to development, focal adhesion, and the extracellular matrix. Among the genes comprising the expression signature, we identified that discoidin-domain receptor 2 (DDR2) as a potential regulator of peritoneal dissemination. The DDR2 was upregulated by the loss of DNA methylation and that DDR2 knockdown reduced peritoneal metastasis in a xenograft model. Dasatinib, an inhibitor of the DDR2 signaling pathway, effectively suppressed peritoneal dissemination. DDR2 was identified as a driver gene for GC dissemination from the combined expression signature and can potentially serve as a novel therapeutic target for inhibiting GC peritoneal dissemination.
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