Division of Clinical Research, Fred Hutchinson Cancer Research Center, Seattle WA, USA.
While androgen deprivation therapy (ADT) remains the primary treatment for metastatic prostate cancer (PCa), castration does not eliminate androgens from the prostate tumor microenvironment, and residual intratumoral androgens are implicated in nearly every mechanism by which androgen receptor (AR)-mediated signaling promotes castration-resistant disease. The uptake and intratumoral (intracrine) conversion of circulating adrenal androgens such as dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate (DHEA-S) to steroids capable of activating the wild type AR is a recognized driver of castration resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). However, less well-characterized adrenal steroids, including 11-deoxcorticosterone (DOC) and 11beta-hydroxyandrostenedione (11OH-AED) may also play a previously unrecognized role in promoting AR activation. In particular, recent data demonstrate that the 5α-reduced metabolites of DOC and 11OH-AED are activators of the wild type AR. Given the well-recognized presence of SRD5A activity in CRPC tissue, these observations suggest that in the low androgen environment of CRPC, alternative sources of 5α-reduced ligands may supplement AR activation normally mediated by the canonical 5α-reduced agonist, 5α-DHT. Herein we review the emerging data that suggests a role for these alternative steroids of adrenal origin in activating the AR, and discuss the enzymatic pathways and novel downstream metabolites mediating these effects. We conclude by discussing the potential implications of these findings for CRPC progression, particularly in context of new agents such as abiraterone and enzalutamide which target the AR-axis for prostate cancer therapy.
Keywords: intracrine steroidogenesis, adrenal androgen, deoxycorticosterone, 11beta-hydroxyandrostenedione, 11ketodihydrotestosterone, castration resistant prostate cancer, androgen receptor.