Androgen receptor blockade resistance with enzalutamide in prostate cancer results in immunosuppressive alterations in the tumor immune microenvironment.

Emerging data suggest that patients with enzalutamide-treated prostate cancer with increased programmed death-ligand 1 (PD-L1) expression may benefit from anti-PD-L1 treatment. Unfortunately, the Phase III IMbassador250 clinical trial revealed that the combination of atezolizumab (a PD-L1 inhibitor) and enzalutamide failed to extend overall survival in patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC).

However, the mechanisms underlying treatment failure remain unknown.

Human CRPC C4-2B cells and murine Myc-CaP cells were chronically exposed to increasing concentrations of enzalutamide and the cells resistant to enzalutamide were referred to as C4-2B MDVR and Myc-CaP MDVR, respectively. The mechanisms of action in drug-resistant prostate cancer cells were determined using RNA sequencing analyses, RNA interference, real-time PCR, western blotting, and co-culturing technologies. Myc-CaP and Myc-CaP MDVR tumors were established in syngeneic FVB mice, and tumor-infiltrating leukocytes were isolated after enzalutamide treatment. The stained immune cells were determined by flow cytometry, and the data were analyzed using FlowJo.

Immune-related signaling pathways (interferon alpha/gamma response, inflammatory response, and cell chemotaxis) were suppressed in human enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer cells. PD-L1 was overexpressed and negatively regulated by androgen receptor signaling in resistant cells and patient with CRPC cohorts. Enzalutamide treatment decreased CD8+ T-cell numbers but increased monocytic myeloid-derived suppressor cell (M-MDSC) populations and PD-L1 expression within murine Myc-CaP tumors. Similarly, chemotaxis and immune response-regulating signaling pathways were suppressed, and PD-L1 expression was also increased using enzalutamide-resistant Myc-CaP MDVR cells. Notably, MDSC populations were significantly increased in Myc-CaP MDVR orthotopic tumors compared with those in Myc-CaP parental tumors. Co-culturing bone marrow cells with Myc-CaP MDVR cells significantly promoted MDSC differentiation and shifted towards M2 macrophage skewing.

Our study suggests that immunosuppressive signaling can be promoted directly by enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer cells and may be a potential means by which the efficacy of immune checkpoint inhibitors in enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer is diminished.

Journal for immunotherapy of cancer. 2023 May [Epub]

Pengfei Xu, Joy C Yang, Bo Chen, Christopher Nip, Jonathan E Van Dyke, Xiong Zhang, Hong-Wu Chen, Christopher P Evans, William J Murphy, Chengfei Liu

Department of Urologic Surgery, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, USA., Flow Cytometry Core, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, USA., Department of Biochemistry and Molecular Medicine, University of California Davis, Davis, California, USA., University of California Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center, Sacramento, California, USA., Department of Urologic Surgery, University of California Davis, Sacramento, California, USA .