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Platinum Priority – Brief Correspondence
Editorial by Manfred P. Wirth and Michael Froehner on pp. 991–992 of this issue

Combination AZD5363 with Enzalutamide Significantly Delays Enzalutamide-resistant Prostate Cancer in Preclinical Models

By: Paul Toren a , Soojin Kim a , Thomas Cordonnier a , Claire Crafter b , Barry R. Davies b , Ladan Fazli a , Martin E. Gleave a and Amina Zoubeidi a lowast

European Urology, Volume 67 Issue 6, June 2015, Pages 986-990

Published online: 01 June 2015

Keywords: Akt inhibitor, Apoptosis, Enzalutamide, Prostate cancer

Abstract Full Text Full Text PDF (1,3 MB) Patient Summary

Abstract

The phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase/Akt (PI3K/Akt) pathway is a key pathway activated in castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC). This preclinical study evaluates targeting of Akt with AZD5363 alone and in combination with enzalutamide (ENZ) to prevent and delay resistance. Our results demonstrate AZD5363 has significant proapoptotic, antiproliferative activity as monotherapy in ENZ-resistant cell lines in vitro and significantly decreased tumour growth in ENZ-resistant xenograft. The combination of AZD5363 and ENZ showed synergistic decreases in cell proliferation and induced cell-cycle arrest and apoptosis in prostate cancer cell lines LNCaP and C4-2. Notably, the combination of AZD5363 and ENZ resulted in an impressive regression of castrate-resistant LNCaP xenograft tumours without any recurrence demonstrated, whereas progression occurred with both monotherapies. Serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) levels were also continuously suppressed, and nadir PSA levels were lower in the combination arm compared to ENZ alone. Combination AZD5363 and ENZ at time of castration similarly resulted in significant regression of tumours, with greater relative suppression of PSA compared to when administered to castrate-resistant xenografts. In summary, combination AZD5363 and ENZ significantly delays the development of ENZ resistance in preclinical models through synergistic increases in apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. Our results also suggest greater efficacy may be seen with earlier combination treatment. This study provides preclinical data to support evaluation of combination targeting of the PI3K/Akt pathway and the androgen-receptor axis in the clinic using AZD5363 and ENZ, respectively.

Patient summary

Targeting of the Akt and androgen receptor pathways with AZD5363 and enzalutamide, respectively, significantly delayed the development of enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer through increased apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. This preclinical synergy provides a strong rationale for clinical evaluation of this combination.

Take Home Message

Targeting of the Akt and androgen receptor pathways with AZD5363 and enzalutamide, respectively, significantly delayed the development of enzalutamide-resistant prostate cancer through increased apoptosis and cell cycle arrest. This preclinical synergy provides a strong rationale for clinical evaluation of this combination.

Keywords: Akt inhibitor, Apoptosis, Enzalutamide, Prostate cancer.

While new androgen receptor (AR)-targeting therapies such as abiraterone and enzalutamide (ENZ) highlight the success of targeting the AR axis in castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), these therapies are not curative and resistance inevitably develops. Therefore, there remains a need for rationale therapeutic strategies to delay the development of resistance.

The Akt pathway is upregulated in CRPC and predicts a poorer prognosis [1] . Akt signalling is involved in many oncogenic cellular processes, including cell growth and survival. Preclinical research demonstrates that the phosphatidylinositol-4,5-bisphosphate 3-kinase (PI3K)/Akt/mechanistic target of rapamycin (serine/threonine kinase) (mTOR) and AR pathways interact reciprocally both in settings of prostate cancer (PCa) resistance and carcinogenesis[2] and [3]. Furthermore, these experiments provide a rationale explaining disappointing results of prior trials of Akt pathway inhibitors as monotherapy in advanced PCa[1] and [4].

AZD5363 functions as an orally available adenosine triphosphate-competitive pan-Akt inhibitor [5] . In this study, we evaluated the role of Akt inhibition with AZD5363 to delay the development of ENZ-resistant PCa.

The Akt pathway is a key targetable pathway in models of ENZ resistance. We and others found the Akt pathway is activated following treatment with ENZ (Supplementary Fig. 1a) [2] . Therefore, using ENZ-resistant MR49C and MR49F cells derived through serial passage of LNCaP xenografts treated with ENZ [6] , we assessed the efficacy of AZD5363 in models of ENZ resistance. Consistent with other adenosine triphosphate-competitive, catalytic inhibitors of Akt, AZD5363 resulted in an accumulation of inactive p-Akt [5] , demonstrated by downstream decreases in p-S6 and 4e-BP-1 ( Fig. 1 A). A dose-dependent decrease in cell viability was observed in ENZ resistant cells ( Fig. 1 B). Mechanistically, this was caused by increased apoptosis and cell cycle arrest ( Fig. 1 C; Supplementary Fig. 1b and 1c).

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Fig. 1 Targeting the Akt pathway with AZD5363 in enzalutamide (ENZ)-resistant models. (A) MR49C and MR49F Akt pathway signalling protein levels following treatment with 1 μM AZD5363 for 24 h. (B) Cell proliferation of MR49C and MR49F cells assessed with crystal violet assay after 48 h of treatment with indicated doses of AZD5363. Pooled means of triplicate experiments are plotted plus or minus the standard error of the mean. (C) AZD5363 induces apoptosis in MR49C and MR49F cells as assessed using caspase-3 activity assay. (D) Change in weekly mean tumour volume (left) and serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level (right) in mice treated with AZD5363 100 mg/kg twice daily versus vehicle. Treatment was started when tumours reached 200 mm3; ENZ 10 mg/kg given daily since tumour inoculation was stopped when treatment started. Treatments were given by oral gavage 5 d on and 2 d off. (E) Representative images of Ki67 staining of collected vehicle- and AZD5363-treated MR49F xenografts. Complete results are shown in Supplementary Figure 2c. (F) Waterfall plots showing individual responses in tumour volume (left) and serum PSA change from baseline (right) between groups after 3 wk of treatment. CTL = control.

In vivo, we selected the rapidly proliferating, prostate-specific antigen (PSA)-producing MR49F xenograft model [6] , as MR49F cells had a highly active Akt pathway (Supplementary Fig. 2a). We observed a significant response to AZD5363 treatment with evident tumour growth inhibition and delayed PSA rises ( Fig. 1 D and F). On a microarray of collected tumours, increased pAkt levels, an expected on-target effect of AZD5363, were observed. A decrease in Ki67 staining confirmed the antiproliferative action in vivo ( Fig. 1 E; Supplementary Fig. 2b). This improved cancer-specific and overall survival (Supplementary Fig. 3a) with no toxicity (Supplementary Fig. 3b). Tumour growth inhibition was seen with lower doses of AZD5363, but ENZ given concomitantly appeared to act as an agonist (Supplementary Fig. 3c–3f). Our unpublished data confirm that ENZ acts as an agonist in MR49C and MR49F cells due to the presence of the previously described F876L AR ligand-binding domain mutation [7] . The rising PSA level in MR49F xenografts that became resistant to AZD5363 ( Fig. 1 D) suggested the resistance to AZD5363 in this model was AR driven.

Therefore, we hypothesised that earlier targeting of Akt and AR may delay the onset of ENZ resistance. Using LNCaP, C4-2, and 22RV1 cells, protein signalling pathways were analysed. We found that combination AZD5363 and ENZ resulted in a greater induction of poly adenosine diphosphate ribose polymerase cleavage and caspase-3 activity ( Fig. 2 A and 2B; Supplementary Fig. 5b and 5d), increased subG1/G0 population (Supplementary Fig. 4a) with concomitant decrease of cyclin D1 ( Fig. 2 A), and, in most cases, a greater decrease in phosphorylation of Akt downstream effectors ( Fig. 2 A; Supplementary Fig. 4b). These effects were translated to cell viability, where a synergistic effect of AZD5363 with ENZ was observed ( Fig. 2 C). Results in 22RV1 cells also demonstrated synergy with the combination, despite the cells being generally resistant to monotherapy on the different assays (Supplementary Fig. 4b–4d).

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Fig. 2 Combination targeting of Akt and androgen receptor with AZD5363 and enzalutamide (ENZ) delays ENZ resistance. (A) Western blots demonstrating Akt downstream effectors and apoptotic and cell cycle markers following treatment with dimethyl sulfoxide control, 1 μM AZD5363, 10 μM ENZ, or 1 μM AZD5363 plus 10 μM ENZ in LNCaP and C4-2 cells. (B) Apoptosis in LNCaP and C4-2 cells after 24 h of treatment as assessed using caspase-3 activity assay. (C) Cell proliferation as assessed using crystal violet assay after 48 h of treatment with AZD5363, ENZ, or AZD5363 plus ENZ in LNCaP and C4-2 cells at indicated doses. Pooled means of triplicate experiments are shown. *Synergistic effect of the combination calculated using the bliss independence model. (D) Mean tumour volume (left) and serum prostate-specific antigen (PSA) level (right) values in LNCaP castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) xenografts treated with vehicle, 37.5 mg/kg AZD5363 twice daily, daily 10 mg/kg, or AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily plus daily 10 mg/kg ENZ. Mice started treatment at the onset of CRPC and were treated for 5 d on and 2 d off. The inset in the left-side chart demonstrates observation of tumour volume in combination-treated mice up to 19 wk (five mice reached 19 wk). (E) Immunohistochemical Ki67 staining of representative samples from each group of xenografts collected at the end of study. Complete results from tumour microarrays are shown in Supplementary Figure 6c. (F) Tumour volume (left) and serum PSA level (right) of mice treated following castration with vehicle or AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily plus daily 10 mg/kg ENZ given at time of castration for 5 d on and 2 d off. (G) Mean weekly PSA values following treatment with AZD5363 plus ENZ given at time of castration or CRPC from both studies. *p < 0.05; **p < 0.01; ***p < 0.001. CTL = control.

The combination of AZD5363 and ENZ was assessed at different disease time points using the LNCaP xenograft model (Supplementary Fig. 5a). Combination therapy for CRPC resulted in significant regression of tumours without regrowth, as well as a significant and sustained decline in PSA level compared to either monotherapy ( Fig. 2 D; Supplementary Fig. 5b and 5c). Immunohistochemical staining for markers of proliferation and downstream signalling corroborated these results ( Fig. 2 E; Supplementary Fig. 6).

In a separate in vivo study of the combination AZD5363 plus ENZ given at time of castration, tumour volume dropped similarly and PSA levels dropped to a relatively greater extent compared to the prior study ( Fig. 2 F and 2G). The mean PSA nadir was lowered to a greater extent with combination therapy given at castration relative to vehicle (51-fold difference;p = 0.064) compared to AZD5363 plus ENZ given at time of CPRC relative to ENZ treatment (12-fold difference;p = 0.065) among mice with ≥4 wk of treatment. Drugs were well tolerated in both in vivo studies (Supplementary Fig. 6d–6f).

While ENZ improves survival and quality of life in CRPC patients [8] , resistance invariably develops and thus there is a need for strategies to delay resistance. Resistance to ENZ may emerge through multiple mechanisms that allow for continued AR pathway signalling, such as AR mutations, splice variants, and glucocorticoid receptor signalling. Our study suggests that early cotargeting of the Akt pathway in combination with potent AR antagonists can delay the onset of ENZ-resistance.

Our prior work has demonstrated that AZD5363 synergizes with bicalutamide [9] . Using the more potent AR antagonist ENZ, we show that combined targeting with AZD5363 can delay ENZ resistance through mechanisms of cell cycle arrest and induction of apoptosis. The benefit of earlier combination treatment observed in our study mirrors recently reported results of combination docetaxel and androgen deprivation in hormone-sensitive metastatic disease [10] . More research is needed to understand which targeted inhibitor of the PI3K/Akt/mTOR pathway is optimally paired with AR pathway inhibitors, but our results support the concept that upstream Akt inhibition may be more efficacious than targeting downstream mTOR by avoiding feedback loops that occur with mTOR inhibition alone.

Another question in the use of PI3K/Akt/mTOR inhibitors surrounds patient selection. Interestingly, the combination demonstrated synergy in the phosphatase and tensin homolog (PTEN) wild-type 22RV1 cells, suggesting that while the response to PI3K/Akt/mTOR inhibition is dependent on activation of the pathway (eg, by PTEN loss), the synergy of AR and Akt pathway inhibitors may not be.

In conclusion, our preclinical studies in resistant PCa models demonstrate an impressive response in delaying and treating ENZ-resistant disease using the novel Akt inhibitor AZD5363 with ENZ. These results provide a strong rationale for further evaluation of this combination in the clinic.


Author contributions:Amina Zoubeidi had full access to all the data in the study and takes responsibility for the integrity of the data and the accuracy of the data analysis.

Study concept and design:Zoubeidi, Gleave, Toren.

Acquisition of data:Toren, Kim, Cordonnier, Fazli.

Analysis and interpretation of data:Zoubeidi, Toren.

Drafting of the manuscript:Zoubeidi, Toren.

Critical revision of the manuscript for important intellectual content:Zoubeidi, Davies, Crafter, Toren.

Statistical analysis:Toren, Fazli.

Obtaining funding:Zoubeid, Gleave.

Administrative, technical, or material support:Gleave, Zoubeidi, Fazli.

Supervision:Zoubeidi, Gleave.

Other(specify): None.

Financial disclosures:Amina Zoubeidi certifies that all conflicts of interest, including specific financial interests and relationships and affiliations relevant to the subject matter or materials discussed in the manuscript (eg, employment/affiliation, grants or funding, consultancies, honoraria, stock ownership or options, expert testimony, royalties, or patents filed, received, or pending), are the following: C. Crafter and B. Davies are employees of AstraZeneca. M. Gleave and A. Zoubeidi receive research funding from AstraZeneca. M. Gleave is a consultant for AstraZeneca.

Funding/Support and role of the sponsor:AstraZeneca, Prostate Cancer Canada, and the Canadian Institutes of Health Research sponsored this research and were involved in the design and conduct of the study and approval of the manuscript.

Appendix A. Supplementary data

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Supplementary Fig. 1 – Additional in vitro results of AZD5363 treatment of enzalutamide (ENZ)-resistant cells. (a) Time course demonstrating increase of pAkt protein levels with 10 μM ENZ treatment relative to dimethyl sulfoxide control. Bar graphs (right) show densitometric intensity of the bands with pAkt levels normalized to vinculin levels. (b) Cleaved poly ADP ribose polymerase protein levels in MR49C and MR49F cells after 24 h of treatment with 1 μM AZD5363. (c) Cell cycle fraction of ENZ-resistant cells following AZD5363 treatment. MR49C and MR49F cells were treated with AZD5363 for 24 h and then fixed and stained with propidium iodide and analysed by flow cytometry.

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Supplementary Fig. 2 – Additional in vivo results of AZD5363 treatment of enzalutamide (ENZ)-resistant xenografts. (a) Western blot showing basal levels of pAkt and Akt and downstream effectors S6, 4eBP-1 in ENZ-resistant MR49C and MR49F cell lines and parenteral LNCaP. Densitometry results of the representative Western blots (right) represent values normalized to vinculin levels. (b) A microarray of collected tumours (10 vehicle and 8 AZD5363 samples with triplicates) was stained with 1/500 Ki67, 1/25 pAkt (Ser473), and 1/150 Akt. Representative images (left) of mean staining intensity scores (right) by a blinded pathologist at ×20 magnification. Means are plotted plus or minus the standard error of the mean.

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Supplementary Fig. 3 – Treatment of enzalutamide (ENZ)-resistant cells with combination ENZ and AZD5363. (a) Cancer-specific survival (left) and overall survival of MR49F xenografts treated with vehicle or AZD5363 100 mg/kg twice daily once total tumour volume reached >200 mm3. (b) Mean weight of mice during treatment in each group. (c) Mean tumour volume (left) and mean serum PSA level (right) in mice treated with AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily and AZD5363 75 mg/kg twice daily. Daily ENZ 10 mg/kg started at tumour inoculation was continued in control and treatment arms. All in vivo treatments were given as oral gavage 5 d on, 2 d off. (d) Waterfall plots of tumour volume (left) and PSA level (right) after 3 wk of treatment with AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily and AZD5363 75 mg/kg twice daily with concomitant daily ENZ 10 mg/kg. (e) Cancer-specific survival of MR49F xenografts treated with AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily and AZD53 63 75 mg/kg twice daily with daily ENZ 10 mg/kg. (f) Mean body weight of mice during indicated treatments.

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Supplementary Fig. 4 – Effects of AZD5363 plus enzalutamide (ENZ) on cell cycle analysis and 22RV1 cells. (a) LNCaP, C4-2, and 22RV1 cells were treated with monotherapy or combination AZD5363 1 μM and ENZ 10 μM for 24 h. Cells were fixed and stained with propidium iodide and analysed by flow cytometry. Pooled mean results of at least two separate experiments are shown plus or minus the standard error of the mean. (b) Western blots demonstrating Akt downstream effectors and apoptotic and cell cycle markers following treatment for 24 h with control dimethyl sulfoxide, 1 μM AZD5363, 10 μM ENZ, or 1 μM AZD5363 plus 10 μM ENZ in 22RV1 cells. (c) Cell proliferation assessed using crystal violet assay after 48 h of treatment with AZD5363, ENZ, or AZD5363 plus ENZ in 22RV1 cells. Pooled results from three separate experiments with triplicates are shown. * = synergistic effect of the combination using the bliss independence model. (d) Apoptosis in 22RV1 cells after 24 h of treatment as assessed using caspase-3 activity assay.

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Supplementary Fig. 5 – Additional results of AZD5363 plus enzalutamide (ENZ) in LNCaP in vivo models. (a) Study design for LNCaP in vivo models. (b) Kaplan-Meier survival curves for mice treated with vehicle, AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily, daily ENZ 10 mg/kg, or both at time of castrate-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC): overall survival (left), time to tumour doubling (centre), and cancer-specific survival (right). (c) Plot showing individual maximal percent growth and regression from baseline tumour volume for all mice during 12 wk of treatment. (d) Mean body weight of mice treated at time of CRPC. (e) Reasons mice euthanized prior to tumour size end point in mice treated at time of CRPC. No mice in study of AZD5363 plus ENZ given at time of castration were euthanized during study period. (f) Mean body weight of mice treated with vehicle or AZD5363 37.5 mg/kg twice daily plus daily ENZ 10 mg/kg at time of castration.

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Supplementary Fig. 6 – Immunohistochemical changes in LNCaP castrate resistant prostate cancer xenograft microarray. A tissue microarray was constructed from five xenograft samples collected at the end of the study among LNCaP xenografts treated at time of castration-resistant prostate cancer. Staining intensity was graded by a pathologist blinded to group. (a) Mean intensity staining is shown for p-Akt and Akt with representative images (right). (b) Mean intensity staining for p-4e-BP1/4e-BP-1. (c) Mean intensity staining for p-S6/S6. (d) Mean intensity staining for Ki67.

References

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Footnotes

a The Vancouver Prostate Centre, University of British Columbia, Vancouver, BC, Canada

b AstraZeneca, Alderley Park, Macclesfield, UK

lowast Corresponding author. The Vancouver Prostate Centre, 2660 Oak Street, Vancouver, BC V6H 3Z6, Canada.

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