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Androgen receptor as a mediator and biomarker of radioresistance in triple-negative breast cancer.


Increased rates of locoregional recurrence have been observed in triple-negative breast cancer despite chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Thus, approaches that combine therapies for radiosensitization in triple-negative breast cancer are critically needed. We characterized the radiation therapy response of 21 breast cancer cell lines and paired this radiation response data with high-throughput drug screen data to identify androgen receptor as a top target for radiosensitization. Our radiosensitizer screen nominated bicalutamide as the drug most effective in treating radiation therapy-resistant breast cancer cell lines. We subsequently evaluated the expression of androgen receptor in >2100 human breast tumor samples and 51 breast cancer cell lines and found significant heterogeneity in androgen receptor expression with enrichment at the protein and RNA level in triple-negative breast cancer. There was a strong correlation between androgen receptor RNA and protein expression across all breast cancer subtypes (R2 = 0.72, p < 0.01). In patients with triple-negative breast cancer, expression of androgen receptor above the median was associated with increased risk of locoregional recurrence after radiation therapy (hazard ratio for locoregional recurrence 2.9-3.2)) in two independent data sets, but there was no difference in locoregional recurrence in triple-negative breast cancer patients not treated with radiation therapy when stratified by androgen receptor expression. In multivariable analysis, androgen receptor expression was most significantly associated with worse local recurrence-free survival after radiation therapy (hazard ratio of 3.58) suggesting that androgen receptor expression may be a biomarker of radiation response in triple-negative breast cancer. Inhibition of androgen receptor with MDV3100 (enzalutamide) induced radiation sensitivity (enhancement ratios of 1.22-1.60) in androgen receptor-positive triple-negative breast cancer lines, but did not affect androgen receptor-negative triple-negative breast cancer or estrogen-receptor-positive, androgen receptor-negative breast cancer cell lines. androgen receptor inhibition with MDV3100 significantly radiosensitized triple-negative breast cancer xenografts in mouse models and markedly delayed tumor doubling/tripling time and tumor weight. Radiosensitization was at least partially dependent on impaired dsDNA break repair mediated by DNA protein kinase catalytic subunit. Our results implicate androgen receptor as a mediator of radioresistance in breast cancer and identify androgen receptor inhibition as a potentially effective strategy for the treatment of androgen receptor-positive radioresistant tumors.

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