The molecular underpinnings of prostate cancer: impacts on management and pathology practice

Daniel Nava Rodrigues, Gunther Boysen, Semini Sumanasuriya, George Seed, Angelo M.De Marzo, Johann de Bono

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

24 Scopus citations


Prostate cancer (PCa) is a clinically heterogeneous disease and current treatment strategies are based largely on anatomical and pathological parameters. In the recent past, several DNA sequencing studies of primary and advanced PCa have revealed recurrent patterns of genomic aberrations that expose mechanisms of resistance to available therapies and potential new drug targets. Suppression of androgen receptor (AR) signalling is the cornerstone of advanced prostate cancer treatment. Genomic aberrations of the androgen receptor or alternative splicing of its mRNA are increasingly recognised as biomarkers of resistance to AR-targeted therapies such as abiraterone or enzalutamide. Genomic aberrations of the PI3K–AKT axis, in particular affecting PTEN, are common in PCa, and compounds targeting different kinases in this pathway are showing promise in clinical trials. Both germline and somatic defects in DNA repair genes have been shown to sensitise some patients to therapy with PARP inhibition. In addition, abnormalities in mismatch-repair genes are associated with response to immune checkpoint inhibition in other solid tumours and present a tantalising therapeutic avenue to be pursued. Aberrations in CDK4/6–RB1 pathway genes occur in a subset of PCas, may associate with differential sensitivity to treatment, and are likely to have clinical implications beyond prognostication. Inhibitors of CDK4/6 are already being tested in prostate cancer clinical trials. Furthermore, deletions of RB1 are strongly associated with a neuroendocrine phenotype, a rare condition characterized by a non-AR-driven transcriptomic profile. Finally, aberrations in genes involved in regulating the chromatin structure are an emerging area of interest. Deletions of CHD1 are not infrequent in PCa and may associate with increased AR activity and genomic instability, and these tumours could benefit from DNA-damaging therapies. This review summarises how genomic discoveries in PCa are changing the treatment landscape of advanced CRPC, both by identifying biomarkers of resistance and by identifying vulnerabilities to be targeted.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)173-182
Number of pages10
JournalJournal of Pathology
Issue number2
StatePublished - Jan 1 2017


  • DNA sequencing
  • FISH
  • neoplasia
  • prostate

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine


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