Multiple molecular subtypes of triple-negative breast cancer critically rely on androgen receptor and respond to enzalutamide in vivo

Mol Cancer Ther. 2015 Mar;14(3):769-78. doi: 10.1158/1535-7163.MCT-14-0926. Epub 2015 Feb 23.


Triple-negative breast cancer (TNBC) has the lowest 5-year survival rate of invasive breast carcinomas, and currently there are no approved targeted therapies for this aggressive form of the disease. The androgen receptor (AR) is expressed in up to one third of TNBC and we find that all AR(+) TNBC primary tumors tested display nuclear localization of AR, indicative of transcriptionally active receptors. While AR is most abundant in the "luminal AR (LAR)" molecular subtype of TNBC, here, for the first time, we use both the new-generation anti-androgen enzalutamide and AR knockdown to demonstrate that the other non-LAR molecular subtypes of TNBC are critically dependent on AR protein. Indeed, AR inhibition significantly reduces baseline proliferation, anchorage-independent growth, migration, and invasion and increases apoptosis in four TNBC lines (SUM159PT, HCC1806, BT549, and MDA-MB-231), representing three non-LAR TNBC molecular subtypes (mesenchymal-like, mesenchymal stem-like, and basal-like 2). In vivo, enzalutamide significantly decreases viability of SUM159PT and HCC1806 xenografts. Furthermore, mechanistic analysis reveals that AR activation upregulates secretion of the EGFR ligand amphiregulin (AREG), an effect abrogated by enzalutamide in vitro and in vivo. Exogenous AREG partially rescues the effects of AR knockdown on proliferation, migration, and invasion, demonstrating that upregulation of AREG is one mechanism by which AR influences tumorigenicity. Together, our findings indicate that non-LAR subtypes of TNBC are AR dependent and, moreover, that enzalutamide is a promising targeted therapy for multiple molecular subtypes of AR(+) TNBC.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Androgen Antagonists / pharmacology
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Apoptosis / genetics
  • Cell Line, Tumor
  • Cell Proliferation / drug effects
  • Cell Proliferation / genetics
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / genetics
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Phenylthiohydantoin / analogs & derivatives*
  • Phenylthiohydantoin / pharmacology
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics*
  • Signal Transduction / drug effects
  • Signal Transduction / genetics
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Triple Negative Breast Neoplasms / genetics*


  • AR protein, human
  • Androgen Antagonists
  • MDV 3100
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Phenylthiohydantoin