FGF23: mediator of poor prognosis in a sizeable subgroup of patients with castration-resistant prostate cancer presenting with severe hypophosphatemia?

Med Hypotheses. 2014 Oct;83(4):482-7. doi: 10.1016/j.mehy.2014.08.005. Epub 2014 Aug 11.


Castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) is an advanced and incurable stage of the second most frequently diagnosed malignancy in men globally. Current treatment options improve survival modestly but eventually fail due to intrinsic or acquired therapeutic resistance. A hypothesis is presented wherein circulating levels of fibroblast growth factor 23 (FGF23), an endocrine member of the fibroblast growth factor family with phosphaturic properties, are proposed as a prognostic and predictive marker to identify CRPC patients with poor prognosis that are amenable to FGF23 antibody therapy (FGF23i) or treatment with fibroblast growth factor receptor inhibitors (FGFRi). With respect to the latter, FGF23 may also serve as a pharmacodynamic marker enabling individualized FGFRi dosing. We recently discovered that the development of severe and sustained hypophosphatemia in CRPC patients undergoing zoledronic acid therapy for bone metastases was associated with markedly worse prognosis compared to patients without or with only mild and transient hypophosphatemia. Severe hypophosphatemia is a typical manifestation of tumor-induced hypophosphatemic osteomalacia (TIO), a paraneoplastic condition mediated by FGF23 overexpression in most instances. While the postulated tumor-promoting role of FGF23 in CRPC or other malignancies has not yet been studied, several lines of evidence suggest that FGF23 may mediate both severe hypophosphatemia (via its endocrine properties) and aggressive CRPC behavior (via autocrine and paracrine activities): (i) FGF23 and the necessary signalling machinery (i.e. members of the fibroblast growth factor receptor [FGFR] family and the essential co-receptor α-KLOTHO [KL]) are highly expressed in a sizeable subgroup of CRPC patients; (ii) FGF/FGFR signalling plays important roles in prostate cancer; (iii) FGF23 can induce its own expression via a positive autocrine feedback loop involving FGFR1; and (iv) this positive feedback loop may be triggered by bone-targeted therapies frequently used for the treatment of CRPC-associated bone metastases. While there is a lack of personalized treatment strategies in the management of CRPC to date, FGF23 targeted therapy has the potential to fill this unmet clinical need in the not-so-distant future. In fact, FGFRi are currently in advanced clinical testing for a number of malignancies such as kidney and lung cancer, but there is a lack of conclusive data on FGFRi therapy in patients selected for FGF/FGFR pathway activation.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Fibroblast Growth Factor-23
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors / metabolism*
  • Humans
  • Hypophosphatemia / complications*
  • Male
  • Models, Theoretical
  • Orchiectomy*
  • Prognosis
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / complications
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / physiopathology
  • Retrospective Studies


  • FGF23 protein, human
  • Fibroblast Growth Factors
  • Fibroblast Growth Factor-23