ARN-509 (Apalutamide) is a unique androgen receptor (AR) antagonist for the treatment of castration-resistant (CR) prostate cancer (PC). It inhibits AR nuclear translocation, DNA binding and transcription of AR gene targets. As dysregulation of autophagy has been detected in PC, the targeting of autophagy is a potential approach to overcome early therapeutic resistance. Therefore, we investigated the characteristics of autophagic response to ARN-509 treatment and evaluated the potential effect of a combination with autophagy inhibition.
Human prostate cancer cells (LNCaP) were cultivated in a steroid-free medium. Cells were treated with ARN-509 (50 µM) alone or in combination with the autophagy inhibitors 3-methyladenine (3MA, 5 mM) or chloroquine (Chl, 20 µM) or with ATG5 siRNA knock-down. Cell viability and apoptosis were measured by flow cytometry and fluorescence microscopy. Autophagy was monitored by immunohistochemistry, AUTOdot and immunoblotting (WES).
Treatment with ARN-509 led to cell death of up to 37% with 50 µM and 60% with 100 µM by day 7. The combination of 50 µM ARN-509 with autophagy inhibitors produced a further increase in cell death by day 7. Immunostaining results showed that ARN-509 induced autophagy in LNCaP cells as evidenced by elevated levels of ATG5, Beclin 1 and LC3 punctuation and by an increase in the LC3-II band detected by WES. Autophagic flux was restored by the treatment of cells with Chl, intensifying the LC3-II band. These findings were further supported by an enhanced autophagosome punctuation observed by Autodot staining.
These data demonstrate that treatment with ARN-509 leads to increased autophagy levels in LNCaP cells. Furthermore, in combination with autophagy inhibitors, ARN-509 provided a significantly elevated antitumor effect, thus providing a new therapeutic approach potentially translatable to patients.