Molecular Pathways: Inhibiting steroid biosynthesis in prostate cancer
Ferraldeschi R, Sharifi N, Auchus RJ, Attard G. Clin Cancer Res. 2013 Mar 7. [Epub ahead of print]


Cancer Therapeutics, Institute of Cancer Research.


A significant proportion of castration-resistant prostate cancers (CRPC) remain driven by ligand activation of the androgen receptor. Although the testes are the primary source of testosterone, testosterone can also be produced from peripheral conversion of adrenal sex hormone precursors dehydroepiandrosterone (DHEA) and androstenedione (AD) in the prostate and other tissues. CYP17A1 catalyzes two essential reactions in the production of DHEA and androstenedione: the hydroxylation (hydroxylase activity) and the subsequent cleavage of the C17-20 side-chain (lyase activity). Potent and selective inhibition of CYP17A1 by abiraterone depletes residual non-gonadal androgens and is an effective treatment for CRPC. Elucidation of the mechanisms that underlie resistance to abiraterone will inform on the development of novel therapeutic strategies post abiraterone. Preclinical evidence that androgen biosynthesis in prostate cancer cells does not necessarily follow a single dominant pathway and residual androgens or alternative ligands (including administered glucocorticoids) can reactivate androgen receptor signaling supports co-targeting of more than one enzyme involved in steroidogenesis and combining a CYP17A1 inhibitor with an anti-androgen. Furthermore, given the drawbacks of 17α-hydroxylase inhibition, there is considerable interest in developing new CYP17A1 inhibitors that more specifically inhibit lyase activity and are therefore less likely to require glucocorticoid co-administration.