The androgen receptor drives the growth of metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. This has led to the development of multiple novel drugs targeting this hormone-regulated transcription factor, such as enzalutamide – a potent androgen receptor antagonist. Despite the plethora of possible treatment options, the absolute survival benefit of each treatment separately is limited to a few months. Therefore, current research efforts are directed to determine the optimal sequence of therapies, discover novel drugs effective in metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer and define patient subpopulations that ultimately benefit from these treatments. Molecular studies provide evidence on which pathways mediate treatment resistance and may lead to improved treatment for metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer. This review provides, firstly a concise overview of the clinical development, use and effectiveness of enzalutamide in the treatment of advanced prostate cancer, secondly it describes translational research addressing enzalutamide response vs resistance and lastly highlights novel potential treatment strategies in the enzalutamide-resistant setting.
Simon Linder, Henk G van der Poel, Andries M Bergman, Wilbert Zwart and Stefan Prekovic
KeeMing Chia, Heloisa Milioli, Neil Portman, Geraldine Laven-Law, Rhiannon Coulson, Aliza Yong, Davendra Segara, Andrew Parker, Catherine E Caldon, Niantao Deng, Alexander Swarbrick, Wayne D Tilley, Theresa E Hickey and Elgene Lim
The role of androgen receptor (AR) in endocrine-resistant breast cancer is controversial and clinical trials targeting AR with an AR antagonist (e.g., enzalutamide) have been initiated. Here, we investigated the consequence of AR antagonism using in vitro and in vivo models of endocrine resistance. AR antagonism in MCF7-derived tamoxifen-resistant (TamR) and long-term estrogen-deprived breast cancer cell lines were achieved using siRNA-mediated knockdown or pharmacological inhibition with enzalutamide. The efficacy of enzalutamide was further assessed in vivo in an estrogen-independent endocrine-resistant patient-derived xenograft (PDX) model. Knockdown of AR inhibited the growth of the endocrine-resistant cell line models. Microarray gene expression profiling of the TamR cells following AR knockdown revealed perturbations in proliferative signaling pathways upregulated in endocrine resistance. AR loss also increased some canonical ER signaling events and restored sensitivity of TamR cells to tamoxifen. In contrast, enzalutamide did not recapitulate the effect of AR knockdown in vitro, even though it inhibited canonical AR signaling, which suggests that it is the non-canonical AR activity that facilitated endocrine resistance. Enzalutamide had demonstrable efficacy in inhibiting AR activity in vivo but did not affect the growth of the endocrine-resistant PDX model. Our findings implicate non-canonical AR activity in facilitating an endocrine-resistant phenotype in breast cancer. Unlike canonical AR signaling which is inhibited by enzalutamide, non-canonical AR activity is not effectively antagonized by enzalutamide, and this has important implications in the design of future AR-targeted clinical trials in endocrine-resistant breast cancer.
Nicholas Russell, Ada Cheung and Mathis Grossmann
Prostate cancer (PCa) is the second most commonly diagnosed cancer in men. Conventional endocrine treatment for PCa leads to global sex steroid deprivation. The ensuing severe hypogonadism is associated with well-documented adverse effects. Recently, it has become apparent that many of the biological actions attributed to androgens in men are in fact not direct, but mediated by estradiol. Available evidence supports a primary role for estradiol in vasomotor stability, skeletal maturation and maintenance, and prevention of fat accumulation. Hence there has been interest in revisiting estradiol as a treatment for PCa. Potential roles for estradiol could be in lieu of conventional androgen deprivation therapy or as low-dose add-back treatment while continuing androgen deprivation therapy. These strategies may limit some of the side effects associated with conventional androgen deprivation therapy. However, although available data are reassuring, the potential for cardiovascular risk and pro-carcinogenic effects on PCa via estrogen receptor signalling must be considered.
Francesco Caiazza, Alyson Murray, Stephen F Madden, Naoise C Synnott, Elizabeth J Ryan, Norma O’Donovan, John Crown and Michael J Duffy
The androgen receptor (AR) is present in approximately 80% of invasive breast cancer patients and in up to 30% of patients with triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC). Therefore, our aim was to investigate the targeting of AR as a possible hormonal approach to the treatment of TNBC. Analysis of 2091 patients revealed an association between AR expression and poor overall survival, selectively in patients with the basal subtype of breast cancer, the vast majority of which are TNBC. IC50 values for the second-generation anti-androgen enzalutamide across 11 breast cancer cell lines varied from 4 µM to >50 µM. The activity of enzalutamide was similar in TN and non-TN cell lines but was dependent on the presence of AR. Enzalutamide reduced clonogenic potential and cell growth in a 3D matrix in AR-positive cells. In addition, enzalutamide also inhibited cell migration and invasion in an AR-dependent manner. Enzalutamide appeared to mediate these processes through down-regulation of the transcription factors AP-1 and SP-1. The first-generation anti-androgen flutamide similarly blocked cell growth, migration and invasion. AR-positive TNBC cells clustered separately from AR-negative cells based on an androgen-related gene expression signature, independently of TNBC subtype. We conclude that targeting of the AR with drugs such as enzalutamide may provide an alternative treatment strategy for patients with AR-positive TNBC.
S Prekovic, T Van den Broeck, S Linder, M E van Royen, A B Houtsmuller, F Handle, S Joniau, W Zwart and F Claessens
Prostate cancer (PCa) is among the most common adult malignancies, and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in men. As PCa is hormone dependent, blockade of the androgen receptor (AR) signaling is an effective therapeutic strategy for men with advanced metastatic disease. The discovery of enzalutamide, a compound that effectively blocks the AR axis and its clinical application has led to a significant improvement in survival time. However, the effect of enzalutamide is not permanent, and resistance to treatment ultimately leads to development of lethal disease, for which there currently is no cure. This review will focus on the molecular underpinnings of enzalutamide resistance, bridging the gap between the preclinical and clinical research on novel therapeutic strategies for combating this lethal stage of prostate cancer.
Yuanyuan Cui, Nagalakshmi Nadiminty, Chengfei Liu, Wei Lou, Chad T Schwartz and Allen C Gao
Cancer cells reprogram their metabolic pathways to facilitate fast proliferation. Previous studies have shown that overexpression of NF-κB2/p52 (p52) in prostate cancer cells promotes cell growth and leads to castration resistance through aberrant activation of androgen receptor (AR). In addition, these cells become resistant to enzalutamide. In this study, we investigated the effects of p52 activation on glucose metabolism and on response to enzalutamide therapy. Data analysis of gene expression arrays showed that genes including GLUT1 (SLC2A1), PKM2, G6PD, and ME1 involved in the regulation of glucose metabolism were altered in LNCaP cells overexpressing p52 compared with the parental LNCaP cells. We demonstrated an increased amount of glucose flux in the glycolysis pathway, as well as the pentose phosphate pathway (PPP) upon p52 activation. The p52-overexpressing cells increase glucose uptake and are capable of higher ATP and lactate production compared with the parental LNCaP cells. The growth of p52-overexpressing cells depends on glucose in the culture media and is sensitive to glucose deprivation compared with the parental LNCaP cells. Targeting glucose metabolism by the glucose analog 2-deoxy-d-glucose synergistically inhibits cell growth when combined with enzalutamide, and resensitizes p52-overexpressing cells to enzalutamide treatment. These results suggest that p52 modulates glucose metabolism, enhances glucose flux to glycolysis and PPPs, thus facilitating fast proliferation of the cells. Co-targeting glucose metabolism together with AR axis synergistically inhibits cell growth and restores enzalutamide-resistant cells to enzalutamide treatment.
Christina Wei and Elizabeth C Crowne
Endocrine abnormalities are common among childhood cancer survivors. Abnormalities of the hypothalamic–pituitary–adrenal axis (HPAA) are relatively less common, but the consequences are severe if missed. Patients with tumours located and/or had surgery performed near the hypothalamic–pituitary region and those treated with an accumulative cranial radiotherapy dose of over 30 Gy are most at risk of adrenocorticotrophic hormone (ACTH) deficiency. Primary adrenal insufficiency may occur in patients with tumours located in or involving one or both adrenals. The effects of adjunct therapies also need to be considered, particularly, new immunotherapies. High-dose and/or prolonged courses of glucocorticoid treatment can result in secondary adrenal insufficiency, which may take months to resolve and hence reassessment is important to ensure patients are not left on long-term replacement steroids inappropriately. The prevalence and cumulative incidences of HPAA dysfunction are difficult to quantify because of its non-specific presentation and lack of consensus regarding its investigations. The insulin tolerance test remains the gold standard for the diagnosis of central cortisol deficiency, but due to its risks, alternative methods with reduced diagnostic sensitivities are often used and must be interpreted with caution. ACTH deficiency may develop many years after the completion of oncological treatment alongside other pituitary hormone deficiencies. It is essential that health professionals involved in the long-term follow-up of childhood cancer survivors are aware of individuals at risk of developing HPAA dysfunction and implement appropriate monitoring and treatment.
Masaki Shiota, Akira Yokomizo, Ario Takeuchi, Eiji Kashiwagi, Takashi Dejima, Junichi Inokuchi, Katsunori Tatsugami, Takeshi Uchiumi and Masatoshi Eto
The progression of prostate cancer to metastatic and castration-resistant disease represents a critical step. We previously showed that protein kinase C (PKC) activation followed by Twist1 and androgen receptor (AR) induction played a critical role in castration resistance, but the precise molecular mechanism remains unknown. This study aimed to elucidate the relevant molecular mechanism, focusing on NF-κB transcription factor. We examined the activity of NF-κB after PKC inhibition, and the expression of Twist1 and AR after inhibition of NF-κB in human prostate cancer cells. We also investigated the status of PKC/NF-κB after inhibition of AR signaling in cells resistant to hormonal therapy. As a result, inhibition of PKC signaling using knockdown and small-molecule inhibition of PKC suppressed RelA activity, while blocking NF-κB suppressed Twist1 and AR expression. Conversely, inhibition of AR signaling by androgen depletion and the novel antiandrogen enzalutamide induced PKC and RelA activation, resulting in Twist1/AR induction at the transcript level. Moreover, inhibition of NF-κB signaling prevented enzalutamide-induced Twist1 and AR induction. Finally, NF-κB was activated in both castration-resistant and enzalutamide-resistant cells. In conclusion, NF-κB signaling was responsible for Twist1 upregulation by PKC in response to AR inhibition, resulting in aberrant activation of AR. NF-κB signaling thus appears to play a critical role in promoting both castration resistance and enzalutamide resistance in PKC/Twist1 signaling in prostate cancer.
Takako Araki, Ning-Ai Liu, Yukiko Tone, Daniel Cuevas-Ramos, Roy Heltsley, Masahide Tone and Shlomo Melmed
Cushing’s syndrome is caused by excessive adrenocorticotropic hormone (ACTH) secretion derived from pituitary corticotroph tumors (Cushing disease) or from non-pituitary tumors (ectopic Cushing’s syndrome). Hypercortisolemic features of ectopic Cushing’s syndrome are severe, and no definitive treatment for paraneoplastic ACTH excess is available. We aimed to identify subcellular therapeutic targets by elucidating transcriptional regulation of the human ACTH precursor POMC (proopiomelanocortin) and ACTH production in non-pituitary tumor cells and in cell lines derived from patients with ectopic Cushing’s syndrome. We show that ectopic hPOMC transcription proceeds independently of pituitary-specific Tpit/Pitx1 and demonstrate a novel E2F1-mediated transcriptional mechanism regulating hPOMC. We identify an E2F1 cluster binding to the proximal hPOMC promoter region (−42 to +68), with DNA-binding activity determined by the phosphorylation at Ser-337. hPOMC mRNA expression in cancer cells was upregulated (up to 40-fold) by the co-expression of E2F1 and its heterodimer partner DP1. Direct and indirect inhibitors of E2F1 activity suppressed hPOMC gene expression and ACTH by modifying E2F1 DNA-binding activity in ectopic Cushing’s cell lines and primary tumor cells, and also suppressed paraneoplastic ACTH and cortisol levels in xenografted mice. E2F1-mediated hPOMC transcription is a potential target for suppressing ACTH production in ectopic Cushing’s syndrome.
Dimitra A Vassiliadi and Stylianos Tsagarakis
Primary bilateral macronodular adrenal hyperplasia (PBMAH) is a highly heterogeneous entity. The incidental identification of an increasing number of cases has shifted its clinical expression from the rarely encountered severe forms, regarding both cortisol excess and adrenal enlargement, to mild forms of asymptomatic or oligosymptomatic cases with less impressive imaging phenotypes. Activation of cAMP/PKA pathway, either due to alterations of the different downstream signaling pathways or through aberrantly expressed G-protein-coupled receptors, relates to both cortisol secretion and adrenal growth. Germline ARMC5 mutations are a frequent genetic defect. The diagnostic approach consists of both imaging and hormonal characterization. Imaging characterization should be done separately for each lesion. Endocrine evaluation in cases with clinically overt Cushing’s syndrome (CS) is similar to that applied for all forms of CS. In incidentally detected PBMAH, hormonal evaluation includes testing for primary aldosteronism, pheochromocytoma and evaluation for autonomous cortisol secretion, using the 1 mg overnight dexamethasone suppression test. Midnight cortisol or 24-h urinary free cortisol may aid in establishing the degree of cortisol excess. In patients with hypercortisolism, ACTH levels should be measured in order to establish ACTH independency. At variance with other forms of CS, PBMAH may be characterized by a distinct pattern of inefficient steroidogenesis. The appropriate management of PBMAH remains controversial. Bilateral adrenalectomy results in lifetime steroid dependency and is better reserved only for patients with severe CS. Unilateral adrenalectomy might be considered in selected patients. In cases where the regulation of cortisol secretion is mediated by aberrant receptors there is some potential for medical therapy.