Background: Recent evidence has implicated the MAP kinase (MAPK) pathway with the development of castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). We have previously reported gene amplification of critical members of this pathway with the development of castrate-resistant disease. In addition, we have shown that rising Raf-1 expression, with the development of CRPC, influences time to biochemical relapse. We therefore sought to further analyse the role of both Raf-1 and its downstream target MAPK in the molecular pathogenesis of CRPC.
Methods: Protein expression of Raf-1 and MAPK, including their activation status, was analysed using immunohistochemistry in a database of 65 paired tumour specimens obtained before and after the development of CRPC and correlated with other members of the pathway.
Results: Patients whose nuclear expression of MAPK rose with the development of CRPC had a significantly shorter median time to death following biochemical relapse (1.40 vs 3.00 years, P=0.0255) as well as reduced disease-specific survival when compared with those whose expression fell or remained unchanged (1.16 vs 2.62 years, P=0.0005). Significant correlations were observed between protein expression of Raf-1 and MAPK with the type 1 receptor tyrosine kinases, Her2 and epidermal growth factor receptor, as well as the transcription factor AP-1 in CRPC tumours.
Conclusion: We conclude that the Her2/Raf-1/MAPK/AP-1 axis may promote the development of CRPC, leading to early relapse, and reduced disease-specific survival. In addition, members of the pathway may act as novel therapeutic and/or diagnostic targets for prostate cancer.