Clinical cancer research : an official journal of the American Association for Cancer Research

Functionality of androgen receptor-based gene expression imaging in hormone refractory prostate cancer.

PMID 15897571


A highly augmented, prostate-specific two-step transcriptional amplification (TSTA) method was developed with the ultimate goal of delivering an effective and safe gene-based treatment to prostate cancer patients. Because very limited treatment options are available for recurrent hormone refractory prostate cancer (HRPC), it is imperative to assess whether the prostate-specific antigen (PSA) promoter-based TSTA gene therapy will be functional in HRPC. We tested the TSTA-driven adenovirus vector on three androgen-dependent and six HRPC models. Real-time gene expression was monitored by both optical imaging and the combined modality of positron emission tomography (PET) and computed tomography. The TSTA-driven firefly luciferase expressing adenoviral vector was active in all androgen receptor (AR)-expressing HRPC models, but inactive in AR- and PSA-negative lines. Interestingly, the TSTA-mediated gene expression was induced by hydrocortisone in MDA PCa 2b, a cell line with mutated AR that possesses altered ligand specificity. In animal models, the TSTA-mediated optical signal was more robust in the HRPC than androgen-dependent tumors. In a parallel trend, a TSTA vector that expresses the herpes simplex virus thymidine kinase PET reporter gene also displayed more robust PET signal in the HRPC tumor. The activity of TSTA system is AR dependent and it recapitulates the functional status of endogenous AR. These data support the conclusion that AR function is activated in HRPC despite castrated levels of androgen. Together with the fact that majority of recurrent prostate cancers express AR and PSA, we foresee that the TSTA approach can be a promising gene therapy strategy for the advanced stages of prostate cancer.