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Adriano Angelucci, Giovanni Luca Gravina, Nadia Rucci, Danilo Millimaggi, Claudio Festuccia, Paola Muzi, Anna Teti, Carlo Vicentini, and Mauro Bologna

The activation of epidermal growth factor receptor (EGF-R) plays a key role in the promotion of proliferation and invasion in prostatic carcinoma (PCa). Gefitinib (Iressa; ZD1839), an orally active EGF-R tyrosine kinase inhibitor, has shown an important anti-proliferative activity in tumors expressing EGF-R both in vitro and in vivo. Our aim was to elucidate the role of gefitinib in the modulation of the metastatic spread of PCa cells. The therapeutic role of gefitinib was investigated by evaluating the proliferative and invasive ability of the PCa cell line PC3 and of its high metastatic sub-line, PCb2, by in vitro assays and intracardiac injection in nude mice. The inhibitory effect of gefitinib was tested in vivo by injecting PCa cells subcutaneously or in the left ventricle of nude mice and by administrating daily 150 mg/kg of gefitinib. While xenograft growth was equally reduced in all PCa lines (about 50%), the bone metastasis formation was inhibited especially for the high metastatic PCb2 sub-line (81%) in comparison to PC3 cells (47%). The comparative in vitro analysis among PCa cell lines showed that PCb2 cells were more sensitive to the inhibitory effect of gefitinib in their invasive ability compared to parental PC3 cells but not in their proliferation rate. Moreover, PCb2 cells demonstrated an increased invasive ability in vitro in response to bone stromal cell conditioned medium (BCM). The simultaneous presence of 0.1 ng/ml gefitinib was sufficient to reduce the number of invaded cells in the presence of both EGF and BCM. The molecular characterization of the highly aggressive PCa sub-lines demonstrated that this phenomenon was associated with an increment in uPA/uPAR axis but not in EGF-R expression. In conclusion, our data suggest that the use of gefitinib as a therapeutic agent may be indicated in the control of PCa spreading to bone.

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Claudio Festuccia, Giovanni Luca Gravina, Anna Maria D'Alessandro, Paola Muzi, Danilo Millimaggi, Vincenza Dolo, Enrico Ricevuto, Carlo Vicentini, and Mauro Bologna

One of the major obstacles in the treatment of hormone-refractory prostate cancer (HRPC) is the development of chemoresistant tumors. The aim of this study is to evaluate the role of azacitidine as chemosensitizing agent in association with docetaxel (DTX) and cisplatin using two models of aggressive prostate cancer, the 22rv1, and PC3 cell lines. Azacitidine shows antiproliferative effects associated with increased proportion of cells in G0/G1 and evident apoptosis in 22rv1 cells and increased proportion of cells in G2/M phase with the absence of acute cell killing in PC3 cells. In vivo, azacitidine (0.8 mg/kg i.p.) reduced tumor proliferation and induced apoptosis in both xenografts upmodulating the expression of p16INKA, Bax, Bak, p21/WAF1, and p27/KIP1, and inhibiting the activation of Akt activity and the expression of cyclin D1, Bcl-2, and Bcl-XL. In vitro treatments with azacitidine lead to upregulation of cleaved caspase 3 and PARP. BCl2 antagonists, such as HA-14-1, enhanced the effects of azacitidine in these two prostate cancer models. In addition, azacitidine showed synergistic effects with both DTX and cisplatin. In vivo this agent caused tumor growth delay without complete regression in xenograft systems. Azacitidine sensitized PC3 and 22rv1 xenografts to DTX and cisplatin treatments. These combinations were also tolerable in mice and superior to either agent alone. As DTX is the standard first-line chemotherapy for HRPC, the development of DTX-based combination therapies is of great interest in this disease stage. Our results provide a rationale for clinical trials on combination treatments with azacitidine in patients with hormone-refractory and chemoresistant prostate tumors.