Prostate cancer is one of the most diagnosed and mortal cancers in western countries. A major clinical problem is the development of androgen-independent prostate cancer (AIPC) during antihormonal treatment. The molecular mechanisms underlying the change from androgen dependence to independence of these tumors are poorly understood and represent a challenge to develop new therapies. Based on genetic data showing amplification of the c-myc gene in AIPC, we studied the ability of c-myc to confer AIPC cell growth. Human androgen-dependent prostate cancer cells overexpressing c-myc grew independently of androgens and presented tumorigenic properties in androgen-depleted conditions. Analysis of signalling pathways by pharmacological inhibitors of the androgen receptor (AR) or by RNA interference directed against AR or c-myc showed that c-myc acted downstream of AR through multiple growth effectors. Thus c-myc is required for androgen-dependent growth and following ectopic expression can induce androgen-independent growth. Moreover, RNA interference directed against c-myc showed that growth of human AIPC cells, AR-positive or -negative, required c-myc expression. Furthermore, we showed that c-myc–overexpressing cells retain a functional p53 pathway and thus respond to etoposide.
David Bernard, Albin Pourtier-Manzanedo, Jesús Gil, David H. Beach