Prostate cancer stem cells: the role of androgen and estrogen receptors

Oncotarget. 2016 Jan 5;7(1):193-208. doi: 10.18632/oncotarget.6220.


Prostate cancer is one of the most commonly diagnosed cancers in men, and androgen deprivation therapy still represents the primary treatment for prostate cancer patients. This approach, however, frequently fails and patients develop castration-resistant prostate cancer, which is almost untreatable.Cancer cells are characterized by a hierarchical organization, and stem/progenitor cells are endowed with tumor-initiating activity. Accumulating evidence indicates that prostate cancer stem cells lack the androgen receptor and are, indeed, resistant to androgen deprivation therapy. In contrast, these cells express classical (α and/or β) and novel (GPR30) estrogen receptors, which may represent new putative targets in prostate cancer treatment.In the present review, we discuss the still-debated mechanisms, both genomic and non-genomic, by which androgen and estradiol receptors (classical and novel) mediate the hormonal control of prostate cell stemness, transformation, and the continued growth of prostate cancer. Recent preclinical and clinical findings obtained using new androgen receptor antagonists, anti-estrogens, or compounds such as enhancers of androgen receptor degradation and peptides inhibiting non-genomic androgen functions are also presented. These new drugs will likely lead to significant advances in prostate cancer therapy.

Keywords: GPR30, stem cells; androgen receptor; estradiol receptors; prostate cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Androgens / pharmacology
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Models, Genetic
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / metabolism*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / genetics*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, Androgen / genetics*
  • Receptors, Androgen / metabolism
  • Receptors, Estrogen / genetics*
  • Receptors, Estrogen / metabolism
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / genetics
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled / metabolism


  • Androgens
  • GPER1 protein, human
  • Receptors, Androgen
  • Receptors, Estrogen
  • Receptors, G-Protein-Coupled