Androgen receptor signaling in circulating tumor cells as a marker of hormonally responsive prostate cancer.
ABSTRACT: Androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) is initially effective in treating metastatic prostate cancer, and secondary hormonal therapies are being tested to suppress androgen receptor (AR) reactivation in castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Despite variable responses to AR pathway inhibitors in CRPC, there are no reliable biomarkers to guide their application. Here, we used microfluidic capture of circulating tumor cells (CTC) to measure AR signaling readouts before and after therapeutic interventions. Single-cell immunofluorescence analysis revealed predominantly "AR-on" CTC signatures in untreated patients, compared with heterogeneous ("AR-on, AR-off, and AR-mixed") CTC populations in patients with CRPC. Initiation of first-line ADT induced a profound switch from "AR-on" to "AR-off" CTCs, whereas secondary hormonal therapy in CRPC resulted in variable responses. Presence of "AR-mixed" CTCs and increasing "AR-on" cells despite treatment with abiraterone acetate were associated with an adverse treatment outcome. Measuring treatment-induced signaling responses within CTCs may help guide therapy in prostate cancer.Acquired resistance to first-line hormonal therapy in prostate cancer is heterogeneous in the extent of AR pathway reactivation. Measurement of pre- and posttreatment AR signaling within CTCs may help target such treatments to patients most likely to respond to second-line therapies.
Project description:Development of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) is associated with alterations in gene expression involved in steroidogenesis and androgen signaling. This study investigates whether gene expression changes related to CRPC development can be identified in circulating tumor cells (CTCs). Gene expression in paired CTC samples from 29 patients, before androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and at CRPC relapse, was compared using a panel including 47 genes related to prostate cancer progression on a qPCR platform. Fourteen genes displayed significantly changed gene expression in CTCs at CRPC relapse compared to before start of ADT. The genes with increased expression at CRPC relapse were related to steroidogenesis, AR-signaling, and anti-apoptosis. In contrast, expression of prostate markers was downregulated at CRPC. We also show that midkine (MDK) expression in CTCs from metastatic hormone-sensitive prostate cancer (mHSPC) was associated to short cancer-specific survival (CSS). In conclusion, this study shows that gene expression patterns in CTCs reflect the development of CRPC, and that MDK expression levels in CTCs are prognostic for cancer-specific survival in mHSPC. This study emphasizes the role of CTCs in exploring mechanisms of therapy resistance, as well as a promising biomarker for prognostic and treatment-predictive purposes in advanced mHSPC.
Project description:Despite aggressive treatment for localized cancer, prostate cancer (PC) remains a leading cause of cancer-related death for American men due to a subset of patients progressing to lethal and incurable metastatic castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Organ-confined PC is treated by surgery or radiation with or without androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), while options for locally advanced and disseminated PC include radiation combined with ADT, or systemic treatments including chemotherapy. Progression to CRPC results from failure of ADT, which targets the androgen receptor (AR) signaling axis and inhibits AR-driven proliferation and survival pathways. The exact mechanisms underlying the transition from androgen-dependent PC to CRPC remain incompletely understood. Reactivation of AR has been shown to occur in CRPC despite depletion of circulating androgens by ADT. At the same time, the presence of AR-negative cell populations in CRPC has also been identified. While AR signaling has been proposed as the primary driver of CRPC, AR-independent signaling pathways may represent additional mechanisms underlying CRPC progression. Identification of new therapeutic strategies to target both AR-positive and AR-negative PC cell populations and, thereby, AR-driven as well as non-AR-driven PC cell growth and survival mechanisms would provide a two-pronged approach to eliminate CRPC cells with potential for synthetic lethality. In this review, we provide an overview of AR-dependent and AR-independent molecular mechanisms which drive CRPC, with special emphasis on the role of the Jak2-Stat5a/b signaling pathway in promoting castrate-resistant growth of PC through both AR-dependent and AR-independent mechanisms.
Project description:Resistance to androgen receptor (AR) antagonists is a significant problem in the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancers (CRPC). Identification of the mechanisms by which CRPCs evade androgen deprivation therapies (ADT) is critical to develop novel therapeutics. We uncovered that CRPCs rely on BRD4-HOXB13 epigenetic reprogramming for androgen-independent cell proliferation. Mechanistically, BRD4, a member of the BET bromodomain family, epigenetically promotes HOXB13 expression. Consistently, genetic disruption of HOXB13 or pharmacological suppression of its mRNA and protein expression by the novel dual-activity BET bromodomain-kinase inhibitors directly correlates with rapid induction of apoptosis, potent inhibition of tumor cell proliferation and cell migration, and suppression of CRPC growth. Integrative analysis revealed that the BRD4-HOXB13 transcriptome comprises a proliferative gene network implicated in cell-cycle progression, nucleotide metabolism, and chromatin assembly. Notably, although the core HOXB13 target genes responsive to BET inhibitors (HOTBIN10) are overexpressed in metastatic cases, in ADT-treated CRPC cell lines and patient-derived circulating tumor cells (CTC) they are insensitive to AR depletion or blockade. Among the HOTBIN10 genes, AURKB and MELK expression correlates with HOXB13 expression in CTCs of mCRPC patients who did not respond to abiraterone (ABR), suggesting that AURKB inhibitors could be used additionally against high-risk HOXB13-positive metastatic prostate cancers. Combined, our study demonstrates that BRD4-HOXB13-HOTBIN10 regulatory circuit maintains the malignant state of CRPCs and identifies a core proproliferative network driving ADT resistance that is targetable with potent dual-activity bromodomain-kinase inhibitors.
Project description:It seems clear that androgen receptor (AR)-regulated expression of the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion gene plays an early role in prostate cancer (PC) development or progression, but the extent to which TMPRSS2:ERG is down-regulated in response to androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) and whether AR reactivates TMPRSS2:ERG expression in castration-resistant PC (CRPC) have not been determined. We show that ERG message levels in TMPRSS2:ERG fusion-positive CRPC are comparable with the levels in fusion gene-positive primary PC, consistent with the conclusion that the TMPRSS2:ERG expression is reactivated by AR in CRPC. To further assess whether TMPRSS2:ERG expression is initially down-regulated in response to ADT, we examined VCaP cells, which express the TMPRSS2:ERG fusion gene, and xenografts. ERG message and protein rapidly declined in response to removal of androgen in vitro and castration in vivo. Moreover, as observed in the clinical samples, ERG expression was fully restored in the VCaP xenografts that relapsed after castration, coincident with AR reactivation. AR reactivation in the relapsed xenografts was also associated with marked increases in mRNA encoding AR and androgen synthetic enzymes. These results show that expression of TMPRSS2:ERG, similarly to other AR-regulated genes, is restored in CRPC and may contribute to tumor progression.
Project description:Purpose We reported previously that the detection of androgen receptor splice variant-7 (AR-V7) mRNA in circulating tumor cells (CTCs) correlated with poor outcomes from the use of abiraterone and enzalutamide in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Here, we expanded our cohort size to better characterize the prognostic significance of AR-V7 in this setting. Methods We prospectively enrolled 202 patients with CRPC starting abiraterone or enzalutamide and investigated the prognostic value of CTC detection (+ v -) and AR-V7 detection (+ v -) using a CTC-based AR-V7 mRNA assay. We examined ? 50% prostate-specific antigen (PSA) responses, PSA progression-free survival, clinical and radiologic progression-free survival, and overall survival. We constructed multivariable models adjusting for PSA, Gleason sum, number of prior hormone therapies, prior abiraterone or enzalutamide use, prior taxane use, presence of visceral metastases, and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group score. We also separately examined the first-line and second-line novel hormonal therapy (NHT) settings. Results Median follow-up times were 15.0, 21.7, and 14.6 months for CTC-, CTC+/AR-V7- and CTC+/AR-V7+ patients, respectively. CTC+/AR-V7+ patients were more likely to have Gleason scores ? 8 ( P = .05), metastatic disease at diagnosis ( P = .01), higher PSA ( P < .01), prior abiraterone or enzalutamide use ( P = .03), prior taxane use ( P = .02), and Eastern Cooperative Oncology Group ? 1 ( P = .01). Outcomes for the overall cohort (and separately for the first-line and second-line NHT cohorts) were best for CTC- patients, intermediate for CTC+/AR-V7- patients, and worse for CTC+/AR-V7+ patients. These correlations remained significant in multivariable models. Conclusion This expanded analysis further characterizes the importance of CTC-based AR-V7 mRNA detection in predicting outcomes in patients with CRPC receiving first- and second-line NHT and, to the best of our knowledge, is the first to suggest that this assay be interpreted using three separate prognostic categories: CTC-, CTC+/AR-V7-, and CTC+/AR-V7+.
Project description:The role of the androgen receptor (AR) signaling axis in the progression of prostate cancer is a cornerstone to our understanding of the molecular mechanisms causing castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Resistance of advanced prostate cancer to available treatment options makes it a clinical challenge that results in approximately 30,000 deaths of American men every year. Since the historic discovery by Dr. Huggins more than 70 years ago, androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) has been the principal treatment for advanced prostate cancer. Initially, ADT induces apoptosis of androgen-dependent prostate cancer epithelial cells and regression of androgen-dependent tumors. However, the majority of patients with advanced prostate cancer progress and become refractory to ADT due to emergence of androgen-independent prostate cancer cells driven by aberrant AR activation. Microtubule-targeting agents such as taxanes, docetaxel and paclitaxel, have enjoyed success in the treatment of metastatic prostate cancer; although new, recently designed mitosis-specific agents, such as the polo-kinase and kinesin-inhibitors, have yielded clinically disappointing results. Docetaxel, as a first-line chemotherapy, improves prostate cancer patient survival by months, but tumor resistance to these therapeutic agents inevitably develops. On a molecular level, progression to CRPC is characterized by aberrant AR expression, de novo intraprostatic androgen production, and cross talk with other oncogenic pathways. Emerging evidence suggests that reactivation of epithelial-mesenchymal-transition (EMT) processes may facilitate the development of not only prostate cancer but also prostate cancer metastases. EMT is characterized by gain of mesenchymal characteristics and invasiveness accompanied by loss of cell polarity, with an increasing number of studies focusing on the direct involvement of androgen-AR signaling axis in EMT, tumor progression, and therapeutic resistance. In this article, we discuss the current knowledge of mechanisms via which the AR signaling drives therapeutic resistance in prostate cancer metastatic progression and the novel therapeutic interventions targeting AR in CRPC.
Project description:Hormonal manipulation plays a significant role in the treatment of advanced hormone naïve prostate cancer and castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) with or without previous chemotherapy. Combination of gonadotropin releasing hormone (GnRH) agonists and androgen receptor (AR) antagonists (combined androgen blockade; CAB) is the first line therapy for advanced hormone naïve prostate cancer, but current strategies are developing novel GnRH antagonists to overcome disadvantages associated with GnRH agonist monotherapy and CAB in the clinical setting. Abiraterone acetate and enzalutamide are hormonal agents currently available for patients with CRPC and are both shown to improve overall survival versus placebo. Recently, in clinical trials, testosterone has been administered in cycles with existing surgical and chemical androgen deprivation therapies (ADT) (intermittent therapy) to CRPC patients of different stages (low risk, metastatic) to abate symptoms of testosterone deficiency and reduce cost of treatment from current hormonal therapies for patients with CRPC. This review will provide an overview on the therapeutic roles of hormonal manipulation in advanced hormone naïve and castration-resistant prostate cancers, as well as the development of novel hormonal therapies currently in preclinical and clinical trials.
Project description:Molecular modifications of the androgen receptor (AR) can cause resistance to androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) in prostate cancer patients. Since lack of representative tumor samples hinders therapy adjustments according to emerging AR-modifications, we evaluated simultaneous detection of the two most common AR modifications (AR-V7 splice variant and <i>AR</i> point mutations) in circulating tumor cells (CTCs). We devised a single-tube assay to detect AR-V7 splice variants and <i>AR</i> point mutations in CTCs using immunomagnetic cell isolation, followed by quantitative real-time PCR and DNA pyrosequencing. We prospectively investigated 47 patients with PSA progression awaiting therapy switch. Comparison of response to newly administered therapy and CTC-AR-status allowed effect size estimation. Nineteen (51%) of 37 patients with detectable CTCs carried AR-modifications. Seventeen patients carried the AR-V7 splice variant, one harbored a p.T878A point mutation and one harbored both AR-V7 and a p.H875Y mutation. We estimated a positive predictive value for response and non-response to therapy by AR status in CTCs of ~94%. Based on a conservative calculation, we estimated the effect size for molecularly-informed therapy switches for prospective clinical trial planning to ~27%. In summary, the ability to determine key resistance-mediating AR modifications in CTCs has the potential to considerably improve prostate cancer treatment.
Project description:Advanced prostate cancer can develop into castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). This process is mediated either by intratumoral ligand synthesis or by mutations or aberrations of the androgen receptor (AR) or its cofactors. To date, no curative therapy for CRPC is available, as AR-targeted therapies eventually result in the development of resistance. The human prostate cancer cell line VCaP (vertebral cancer of the prostate) overexpresses AR and its splice variants (ARVs) as a mechanism of resistance to androgen-deprivation therapy (ADT) of external and intratumoral origin. In the present study, we demonstrate that stimulating estrogen receptor ? activity with the specific agonist 8?-VE2 in VCaP cells in successive stages of ADT induced a time- and dose-dependent decrease in cell survival and an increase in apoptosis. Furthermore, 8?-VE2 treatment reduced the overexpression of the AR as well as ARVs in VCaP cells under maximum ADT. Our results indicate that decreased survival of the androgen-dependent CRPC cells employing apoptosis together with the regulative effect on AR expression could have beneficial effects over current AR-targeting therapies.