Targeting Histone Deacetylases in Advanced Prostate Cancer

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The androgen receptor (AR) signaling axis is a well-established therapeutic target in prostate cancer, due to its central role in tumor maintenance and progression. Although patients respond initially to androgen deprivation therapies and AR antagonists, they invariably progress to a castration-resistant state. Consequently, there is an unmet need for agents that target the AR signaling axis in a unique manner.

Histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors repress AR signaling and prostate cancer growth in cellular and xenograft models. However, HDAC inhibitors also induce epithelial to mesenchymal (EMT) and neuroendocrine differentiation, both of which are associated with prostate cancer progression and aggressiveness. Given that 18 different HDAC isoforms have been identified in humans, and non-selective or Class I (HDAC1, 2, 3, and 8) HDAC inhibitors have been used in most of these studies, the relative contribution of individual HDAC isoforms to AR transcriptional activity and prostate cancer pathophysiology remains to be elucidated. The overarching goals of this study were to (1) determine the role of individual Class I HDACs in AR transcriptional activity and prostate cancer growth, (2) identify selective HDAC inhibitors that have reduced adverse profiles to the treatment of prostate cancer, and (3) identify potential HDAC-interacting proteins that regulate AR target gene transcription and prostate cancer growth.

Using genetic knockdown studies and pharmacological inhibitors with isoform selectivity, we identified that HDAC3 was required for AR transcriptional activity and proliferation in cellular models of androgen-sensitive and castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). Additionally, we found that RGFP966, an HDAC3-selective inhibitor, attenuated the growth of a xenograft model of CRPC. Furthermore, non-selective HDAC inhibitors induced EMT and neuroendocrine markers in prostate cancer cells, but RGFP966 treatment did not. These studies provide rationale for selective inhibition of HDAC3 for the treatment of CRPC, and could provide an explanation for the lack of success using non-selective HDAC inhibitors in clinical trials for prostate cancer.

We also assessed the role of REV-ERB alpha, an HDAC3-interacting protein, in the regulation of AR transcriptional activity and prostate cancer growth. Using siRNA knockdown studies, REV-ERB inhibitors, and overexpression studies, we concluded that REV-ERB alpha; was required for AR target gene induction and prostate cancer growth, including models of CRPC. These studies also provide rational for targeting REV-ERB alpha; for the treatment of CRPC.

Taken together, these studies identify two novel targets in the HDAC signaling axis for the treatment of prostate cancer: HDAC3 and REV-ERB alpha. Our studies provide greater insight into AR transcriptional regulation and prostate cancer pathophysiology.






Brunner, Abigail Maria (2015). Targeting Histone Deacetylases in Advanced Prostate Cancer. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


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