Introduction: The androgen receptor (AR) is the most highly expressed steroid receptor in breast cancer with 75-95% of estrogen receptor (ER)-positive and 40-70% of ER-negative breast cancers expressing AR. Though historically breast cancers were treated with steroidal androgens, their use fell from favor because of their virilizing side effects and the emergence of tamoxifen. Nonsteroidal, tissue selective androgen receptor modulators (SARMs) may provide a novel targeted approach to exploit the therapeutic benefits of androgen therapy in breast cancer.
Materials and methods: Since MDA-MB-453 triple-negative breast cancer cells express mutated AR, PTEN, and p53, MDA-MB-231 triple-negative breast cancer cells stably expressing wildtype AR (MDA-MB-231-AR) were used to evaluate the in vitro and in vivo anti-proliferative effects of SARMs. Microarray analysis and epithelial:mesenchymal stem cell (MSC) co-culture signaling studies were performed to understand the mechanisms of action.
Results: Dihydrotestosterone and SARMs, but not bicalutamide, inhibited the proliferation of MDA-MB-231-AR. The SARMs reduced the MDA-MB-231-AR tumor growth and tumor weight by greater than 90%, compared to vehicle-treated tumors. SARM treatment inhibited the intratumoral expression of genes and pathways that promote breast cancer development through its actions on the AR. SARM treatment also inhibited the metastasis-promoting paracrine factors, IL6 and MMP13, and subsequent migration and invasion of epithelial:MSC co-cultures.
Conclusion: 1. AR stimulation inhibits paracrine factors that are important for MSC interactions and breast cancer invasion and metastasis. 2. SARMs may provide promise as novel targeted therapies to treat AR-positive triple-negative breast cancer.