Interactions and relationships ofPTEN,ERG,SPINK1andARin castration-resistant prostate cancer

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Recently, ETS-related gene (ERG) gene rearrangements, phosphatase tensin homologue (PTEN) deletions and serine protease inhibitor Kazal type 1 (SPINK1) overexpression were investigated as potential markers for molecularly subtyping prostate cancer (PCA). However, their incidence and co-association in castration-resistant PCA (CRPC) has not been characterized fully.

Methods and results:

A cohort of 59 CRPC patients was investigated for ERG rearrangements, PTEN deletions and androgen receptor (AR) amplification by fluorescence in-situ hybridization. SPINK1 overexpression was assessed by immunohistochemistry. ERG rearrangements and PTEN deletions were detected in 22 of 53 (41.5%) and 35 of 55 (63.6%) of cases, with 15 of 22 (68.1%) of ERG rearrangements occurring through deletions. SPINK1 overexpression occurred in three of 51 (5.8%) of cases exclusively in non-ERG rearranged and AR amplification was detected in 12 of 49 (24.4%) of cases. Only PTEN deletions showed intrafocal heterogeneity occurring in nine of 35 (25.7%) of cases. PTEN deletions were significantly associated with each of ERG rearrangements occurring by deletions only (P = 0.001), AR amplification (P = 0.002) and SPINK1 overexpression (P = 0.002). None of the SPINK1 overexpressing tumours showed AR amplification (P = 0.005) and all occurred in PTEN deleted foci (P = 0.002).


The study supports the heterogeneous nature of CRPC and confirms a significant association between PTEN, ERG, AR and SPINK1. Characterizing combined markers will aid in defining PCA subgroups relevant to prognosis contributing to the design of improved therapeutic approaches for CRPC.

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