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Himisha Beltran and Francesca Demichelis

Lineage plasticity and histologic transformation to small cell neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is an increasingly recognized mechanism of treatment resistance in advanced prostate cancer. This is associated with aggressive clinical features and poor prognosis. Recent work has identified genomic, epigenomic, and transcriptome changes that distinguish NEPC from prostate adenocarcinoma, pointing to new mechanisms and therapeutic targets. Treatment-related NEPC arises clonally from prostate adenocarcinoma during the course of disease progression, retaining early genomic events and acquiring new molecular features that lead to tumor proliferation independent of androgen receptor activity, and ultimately demonstrating a lineage switch from a luminal prostate cancer phenotype to a small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma. Identifying the subset of prostate tumors most vulnerable to lineage plasticity and developing strategies for earlier detection and intervention for patients with NEPC may ultimately improve prognosis. Clinical trials focused on drug targeting of the lineage plasticity process and/or NEPC will require careful patient selection. Here, we review emerging targets and discuss biomarker considerations that may be informative for the design of future clinical studies.