Hirst Lab

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Androgens are a major driver of prostate cancer (PCa) and continue to be a critical treatment target for advanced disease, which includes castration therapy and antiandrogens. However, resistance to these therapies leading to metastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (mCRPC), and the emergence of treatment-induced neuroendocrine disease (tNEPC) remains an ongoing challenge. Instability of the DNA methylome is well established as a major hallmark of PCa development and progression. Therefore, investigating the dynamics of the methylation changes going from the castration sensitive to the tNEPC state would provide insights into novel mechanisms of resistance. Using an established xenograft model of CRPC, genome-wide methylation analysis was performed on cell lines representing various stages of PCa progression. We confirmed extensive methylation changes with the development of CRPC and tNEPC using this model. This included key genes and pathways associated with cellular differentiation and neurodevelopment. Combined analysis of methylation and gene expression changes further highlighted genes that could potentially serve as therapeutic targets. Furthermore, tNEPC-related methylation signals from this model were detectable in circulating cell free DNA (cfDNA) from mCRPC patients undergoing androgen-targeting therapies and were associated with a faster time to clinical progression. These potential biomarkers could help with identifying patients with aggressive disease.