Androgen biosynthesis in castration-resistant prostate cancer

    1. Trevor M Penning
    1. Perelman School of Medicine, Center of Excellence in Environmental Toxicology, University of Pennsylvania, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19104-6084, USA
    1. Correspondence should be addressed to T M Penning; Email: penning{at}


    Prostate cancer is the second leading cause of death in adult males in the USA. Recent advances have revealed that the fatal form of this cancer, known as castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), remains hormonally driven despite castrate levels of circulating androgens. CRPC arises as the tumor undergoes adaptation to low levels of androgens by either synthesizing its own androgens (intratumoral androgens) or altering the androgen receptor (AR). This article reviews the major routes to testosterone and dihydrotestosterone synthesis in CRPC cells and examines the enzyme targets and progress in the development of isoform-specific inhibitors that could block intratumoral androgen biosynthesis. Because redundancy exists in these pathways, it is likely that inhibition of a single pathway will lead to upregulation of another so that drug resistance would be anticipated. Drugs that target multiple pathways or bifunctional agents that block intratumoral androgen biosynthesis and antagonize the AR offer the most promise. Optimal use of enzyme inhibitors or AR antagonists to ensure maximal benefits to CRPC patients will also require application of precision molecular medicine to determine whether a tumor in a particular patient will be responsive to these treatments either alone or in combination.

    • Revision received 3 May 2014
    • Accepted 14 May 2014
    • Made available online as an Accepted Preprint 14 May 2014
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