Men are three to four times more likely to be diagnosed with bladder cancer (BCa) than women, who often have more aggressive tumors. Intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guerin (BCG) for non-muscle-invasive bladder cancer (NMIBC) is one of the first immunotherapies, with use of immune checkpoint inhibitors for BCa immunotherapy expanding. Sex hormones, and notably androgens, might impact the outcome of these therapies.
To understand immunological sex differences in BCa and investigate androgen receptor (AR) inhibition as a novel strategy to improve the response to BCa immunotherapy.
Human NMIBC tumors were freshly collected following transurethral resection. In vivo studies used the subcutaneous MBT-2 BCa model in male and female C3H mice. The AR antagonist enzalutamide was given alone or in combination with anti-programmed cell death protein-1 (anti-PD-1) or intratumoral BCG + poly(I:C) treatments.
Tumor growth and survival were evaluated in vivo. Flow cytometry and RNA sequencing characterized the immune cells present in murine and human tumors. Descriptive comparisons were performed for MBT-2 tumors between sexes and with human NMIBC tumors.
The MBT-2 model shows multiple similarities to the immune composition of human NMIBC tumors and recapitulates previously observed human tumor immune cell sex differences. Enzalutamide in combination with either anti-PD-1 or BCG + poly(I:C) treatment in male mice synergized to improve response rates. Notably, the proportion of complete responses in male mice treated with the combination treatment resembles that observed in female mice with either immunotherapy alone. Limitations include the sample size for murine experiments.
Our results suggest that combining AR antagonism with immunotherapy in male BCa patients may potentiate the antitumor immune response and increase response rates. The MBT-2 model appears relevant to investigate immunological BCa sex differences.
Our studies suggest that combining antiandrogen treatments with BCa immunotherapy may improve response rates in men. We also demonstrate the utility of the MBT-2 mouse model to study sex differences in BCa.
European urology open science. 2022 Jul 26*** epublish ***
Marjorie Besançon, Typhaine Gris, France-Hélène Joncas, Valérie Picard, Alain Bergeron, Yves Fradet, Paul Toren
Laboratoire d'Uro-Oncologie Expérimentale, Centre de recherche du CHU de Québec-Université Laval, Axe Oncologie, Québec, QC, Canada.