Prostate cancer is the most diagnosed malignancy and the second leading cause of cancer-related death in American men. While localized therapy is highly curative, treatments for metastatic prostate cancer are largely palliative. Thus, new innovative therapies are needed to target metastatic tumors. Prostate-Specific Antigen (PSA) is a chymotrypsin-like protease with a unique substrate specificity that is secreted by both normal and malignant prostate epithelial cells. Previous studies demonstrated the presence of high levels (μM-mM) of enzymatically active PSA is present in the extracellular fluid of the prostate cancer microenvironment. Because of this, PSA is an attractive target for a protease activated pro-toxin therapeutic strategy. Because prostate cancers typically grow very slowly, a strategy employing a proliferationindependent cytotoxic payload is preferred. Recently, it was shown that the human protease Granzyme B (GZMB), at low micromolar concentrations in the extracellular space, can cleave an array of extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins thus perturbing cell growth, signaling, motility, and integrity. It is also well established that other human proteases such as trypsin can induce similar effects. Because both enzymes require N-terminal proteolytic activation, we propose to convert these proteins into PSA-activated cytotoxins. In this study, we examine the enzymatic and cell targeting parameters of these PSA-activated cytotoxic serine proteases. These pro-enzymes were activated robustly by PSA and induced ECM damage that led to the death of prostate cancer cells in vitro thus supporting the potential use of this strategy as means to target metastatic prostate cancers.
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