Prostate tumor neuroendocrine differentiation via EMT: The road less traveled

Haley Dicken, Patrick J Hensley, Natasha Kyprianou
Asian Journal of Urology 2019, 6 (1): 82-90
The long-standing challenge in the treatment of prostate cancer is to overcome therapeutic resistance during progression to lethal disease. Aberrant transforming-growth factor-β (TGF-β) signaling accelerates prostate tumor progression in a transgenic mouse model via effects on epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT), and neuroendocrine differentiation driving tumor progression to castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is highly aggressive exhibiting reactivation of developmental programs associated with EMT induction and stem cell-like characteristics. The androgen receptor (AR) is a critical driver of tumor progression as well as therapeutic response in patients with metastatic CRPC. The signaling interactions between the TGF-β mechanistic network and AR axis impact the EMT phenotypic conversions, and perturbation of epithelial homeostasis via EMT renders a critical venue for epithelial derived tumors to become invasive, acquire the neuroendocrine phenotype, and rapidly metastasize. Combinations of microtubule targeting taxane chemotherapy and androgen/AR targeting therapies have survival benefits in CRPC patients, but therapeutic resistance invariability develops, leading to mortality. Compelling evidence from our group recently demonstrated that chemotherapy (cabazitaxel, second line taxane chemotherapy), or TGF-β receptor signaling targeted therapy, caused reversion of EMT to mesenchymal-epithelial transition and tumor re-differentiation, in in vitro and in vivo prostate cancer models. In this review, we discuss the functional contribution of EMT dynamic changes to the development of the neuroendocrine phenotype-the newly characterized pathological feature of prostate tumors in the context of the tumor microenvironment-navigated cell lineage changes and the role of this neuroendocrine phenotype in metastatic progression and therapeutic resistance.

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