Somatic HOXB13 Expression Correlates with Metastatic Progression in Men with Localized Prostate Cancer Following Radical Prostatectomy

Eur Urol Oncol. 2021 Dec;4(6):955-962. doi: 10.1016/j.euo.2020.05.001. Epub 2020 Jun 12.


Background: Homeobox B13 (HOXB13) expression regulates normal prostate development and mutations are associated with prostate cancer (PCa) formation.

Objective: To assess the role of HOXB13 mRNA expression in PCa progression following radical prostatectomy.

Design, setting, and participants: Genome-wide expression profiles were queried from two retrospective prostatectomy cohorts with follow-up data (Mayo Clinic, n=780; Johns Hopkins Medical Institute [JHMI], n=355), and a prospective genomic registry (n=5239).

Outcome measurements and statistical analysis: Multivariable Cox regressions were used to analyze metastasis-free survival (MFS).

Results and limitations: HOXB13 expression in primary PCa increased with increasing tumor grade and with high metastatic potential based on a genomic signature. The highest quartile of HOXB13 expression was associated with worse MFS compared with the lowest quartile (Mayo Clinic: adjusted hazard ratio [AHR] 1.46, 95% confidence interval [CI] 1.03-2.06, and JHMI: AHR 1.80, 95% CI 1.02-3.19). The combinations of high HOXB13 expression and low expression of its binding partner, MEIS1 (AHR 2.03, 95% CI 1.54-2.66) or MEIS2 (AHR 1.73, 95% CI 1.33-2.26), portended worse MFS. Additionally, high HOXB13 expression in combination with low MEIS1/2 expression correlated with high expression of androgen receptor-mediated genes. The retrospective nature of this study subjects the findings to a bias due to unmeasured variables.

Conclusions: Primary PCa tumors with increased HOXB13 expression have an increased propensity for metastases following prostatectomy, particularly in the setting of low MEIS1/2 expression. High androgen receptor output may account for worse outcomes for these tumors and suggests heightened sensitivity to androgen suppression.

Patient summary: Using genomic data from a large number of prostate cancer (PCa) tumors, we found that increased expression of homeobox B13 (HOXB13), a gene related to normal prostate development, was associated with worse outcomes following surgery for PCa. A biomarker signature suggests that these tumors would be more susceptible to androgen suppression, a common treatment for PCa. Take Home Messagece:: In multiple large cohorts, prostate cancer tumors with high homeobox B13 (HOXB13) expression and low expression of its binding partner MEIS1/2 were enriched with high androgen receptor output and had an increased propensity for metastases following surgery.

Keywords: Disease progression; Homeobox B13; Homeodomain proteins; Prostatic neoplasms.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Genes, Homeobox*
  • Homeodomain Proteins / genetics
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Prospective Studies
  • Prostate
  • Prostatectomy
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / genetics
  • Prostatic Neoplasms* / surgery
  • Retrospective Studies


  • HOXB13 protein, human
  • Homeodomain Proteins