Androgens as therapy for androgen receptor-positive castration-resistant prostate cancer
The Canadian Prospective Trial of intermittent androgen suppression was a prototype therapeutic initiative started in 1995 for the management of patients in biochemical relapse after radiation for localized prostate cancer. An interim analysis has yielded several observations on the relations between baseline serum prostate specific antigen (PSA), nadir serum PSA, Gleason score, and time off-treatment. In a typical androgen-dependent tumor, the response of serum PSA to androgen withdrawal is biphasic, but with early tumor progression, plateauing of serum PSA is observed. Ligand-independent activation of the androgen receptor, a mechanism subserving the initiation of androgen independence, can be counteracted experimentally with decoy molecules and clinically with nonsteroidal antiandrogens. In some patients, it is possible to lengthen the off-treatment interval by inhibiting the enzyme 5 alpha-reductase, an effect that can be reinforced by lowering serum testosterone with an antigonadotropin. Serial measurements of serum PSA indicate that intermittent androgen suppression engenders a more diverse range of hormone-related responses than previously appreciated. These include: (1) repeated differentiation of tumor with recovery of apoptotic potential; (2) inhibition of tumor growth by rapid restoration of serum testosterone; and (3) restraint of tumor growth by subnormal levels of serum testosterone. These responses are aspects of regulation that should be taken into account when planning long-term treatment of prostate cancer with intermittent androgen suppression.