Background: Approximately half of the prostate carcinomas are characterized by a chromosomal rearrangement fusing the androgen-regulated gene TMPRSS2 to the oncogenic ETS transcription factor ERG. Aim of this study was to comprehensively analyze the role and impact of the ERG rearrangement and protein expression on the progression to castration-resistant (CR) disease. Methods: We used a tissue microarray (TMA) constructed from 114 hormone naive (HN) and 117 CR PCs. We analyzed the ERG rearrangement status by fluorescence in situ hybridization and the expression profiles of ERG, androgen receptor (AR) and the proliferation marker Ki67 by immunohistochemistry. Results: Nearly half of the PC tissue specimens (HN: 38%, CR: 46%) harbored a TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion. HN PCs with positive translocation status showed increased tumor cell proliferation (P<0.05). As expected, TMPRSS2-ERG gene fusion was strongly associated with increased ERG protein expression in HN and CR PCs (both P<0.0001). Remarkably, the study revealed a subgroup (26%) of CR PCs with ERG rearrangement but without any detectable ERG protein expression. This subgroup showed significantly lower levels of AR protein expression and androgen-regulated serum PSA (both P<0.05). Conclusions: In this study, we identified a subgroup of ERG-rearranged CR PCs without detectable ERG protein expression. Our results suggest that this subgroup could represent CR PCs with a dispensed AR pathway. These tumors might represent a thus far unrecognized subset of patients with AR-independent CR PC who may not benefit from conventional therapy directed against the AR pathway.
- castration resistance