The use of androgen deprivation therapies to prevent precancerous prostate abnormalities developing into aggressive prostate cancer may have adverse effects in men with precancers with specific genetic alterations, according to data from a preclinical study recently published in Cancer Discovery, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research.
"The growth and survival of prostate cancer cells are very dependent on signals that the cancer cells receive from a group of hormones, called androgens, which includes testosterone," said Thomas R. Roberts, Ph.D., co-chair of the Department of Cancer Biology at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and professor of biological chemistry and molecular pharmacology at Harvard Medical School in Boston, Mass.
Previous findings from two major randomized, placebo-controlled prostate cancer chemoprevention trials revealed that androgen deprivation therapy reduced the overall risk for low-grade prostate cancer. However, both trials also revealed a high cumulative risk for high-grade prostate cancers that has caused concern among experts.
High-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia is a prostate abnormality that is considered to be a major precursor to prostate cancer. Loss of the tumor suppressor PTEN is detected in 9 to 45 percent of clinical cases.
Using a mouse model of PTEN-driven high-grade prostatic intraepithelial neoplasia, Roberts and his colleagues investigated whether surgical or chemical androgen deprivation could prevent the cancer precursor from progressing to more aggressive disease.
"When we castrated the animals, we thought the tumors would shrink and they did initially," Roberts said. "However, they then grew back and became invasive."