Validation of histone deacetylase 3 as a therapeutic target in castration-resistant prostate cancer

Whereas the androgen receptor (AR) signaling axis remains a therapeutic target in castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), the emergence of AR mutations and splice variants as mechanisms underlying resistance to contemporary inhibitors of this pathway highlights the need for new therapeutic approaches to target this disease. Of significance in this regard is the considerable preclinical data, indicating that histone deacetylase (HDAC) inhibitors may have utility in the treatment of CRPC. However, the results of clinical studies using HDAC inhibitors (directed against HDAC1, 2, 3, and 8) in CRPC are equivocal, a result that some have attributed to their ability to induce an epithelial to mesenchymal transition (EMT) and neuroendocrine differentiation. We posited that it might be possible to uncouple the beneficial effects of HDAC inhibitors on AR signaling from their undesired activities by targeting specific HDACs as opposed to using the pan-inhibitor strategy that has been employed to date.

The relative abilities of pan- and selective-Class I HDAC inhibitors to attenuate AR-mediated target gene expression and proliferation were assessed in several prostate cancer cell lines. Small interfering RNA (siRNA)-mediated knockdown approaches were used to confirm the importance of of HDAC 1, 2, and 3 expression in these processes. Further, the ability of each HDAC inhibitor to induce the expression of EMT markers (RNA and protein) and EMT-like phenotype(s) (migration) were also assessed. The anti-tumor efficacy of a HDAC3-selective inhibitor, RGFP966, was compared to the pan-HDAC inhibitor Suberoylanilide Hydroxamic Acid (SAHA) in the 22Rv1 xenograft model.

Using genetic and pharmacological approaches we demonstrated that a useful inhibition of AR transcriptional activity, absent the induction of EMT, could be achieved by specifically inhibiting HDAC3. Significantly, we also determined that HDAC3 inhibitors blocked the activity of the constitutively active AR V7-splice variant and inhibited the growth of xenograft tumors expressing this protein.

Our studies provide strong rationale for the near-term development of specific HDAC3 inhibitors for the treatment of CRPC.

The Prostate. 2017 Dec 15 [Epub ahead of print]

Abigail B McLeod, James P Stice, Suzanne E Wardell, Holly M Alley, Ching-Yi Chang, Donald P McDonnell

Department of Pharmacology and Cancer Biology, Duke University School of Medicine, Durham, North Carolina.

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