The Immunosuppressive Cytokine interleukin-4 Increases the Clonogenic Potential of Prostate Stem-Like Cells by Activation of STAT6 Signalling

Oncogenesis. 2017 May 29;6(5):e342. doi: 10.1038/oncsis.2017.23.


Interleukin-4 plays a critical role in the regulation of immune responses and has been detected at high levels in the tumour microenvironment of cancer patients, where concentrations correlate with the grade of malignancy. In prostate cancer, interleukin-4 has been associated with activation of the androgen receptor, increased proliferation and activation of survival pathways such as Akt and NF-κB. However, its role in therapy resistance has not yet been determined. Here we investigate the influence of interleukin-4 on primary epithelial cells from prostate cancer patients. Our data demonstrate an increase in the clonogenic potential of these cells when cultured in the presence of interleukin-4. In addition, a Phospho-Kinase Array revealed that in contrast to previously published work, signal transducer and activator of transcription6 (STAT6) is the only signalling molecule activated after interleukin-4 treatment. Using the STAT6-specific inhibitor AS1517499 we could confirm the role of STAT6 in increasing colony-forming frequency. However, clonogenic recovery assays revealed that interleukin-4 does not rescue the effects of either irradiation or docetaxel treatment. We therefore propose that although the interleukin-4/STAT6 axis does not appear to be involved in therapy resistance, it does play a crucial role in the colony-forming abilities of the basal cell population in prostate cancer. IL-4 may therefore contribute to disease relapse by providing a niche that is favourable for the clonogenic growth of prostate cancer stem cells.