Most of castration-refractory prostate cancers (CRPC) continue to express androgen receptor (AR) that maintains its activity at low levels or even in the absence of androgen, driving tumor cell proliferation. Androgen-depleting drugs and androgen antagonists have little or no effect against AR+ cancers that are fully androgen-independent (AI). On the other hand, experimental compounds that cause AR degradation prevent AR-mediated repression of tumor-promoting genes, a tumor-suppressive effect of AR. We report a novel druggable target for CRPC, which mediates the induction but not the repression of gene expression by AR and inhibits the growth of AI prostate cancer (PCa) cells. This target is two closely related transcription-regulating kinases CDK8/CDK19 that unlike some other members of the CDK family are not required for cell cycle progression but play critical roles in several transcriptional signaling pathways. CDK8 and CDK19 are highly expressed in AR+ PCa cells and elevated under the conditions of androgen deprivation; CDK19 is overexpressed in AR+ PCa cell lines and in metastatic clinical PCa. A novel selective CDK8/19 kinase inhibitor (Senexin B) blocks ligand-induced AR-mediated transcriptional activation in androgen-dependent (AD) PCa cells but does not affect the AR-mediated gene repression. The CDK8/19 inhibitor also inhibits ligand-independent AR activation and AI cell growth in AI-PCa cells resistant to the anti-androgenic drug enzalutamide, both in vitro and in a mouse xenograft model. We have also discovered that CDK8/19 inhibition decreases NFκB mediated transcriptional activation of a group of tumor-promoting chemokines, such as CXCL1, CXCL2 and IL8, suggesting that CDK8/19 may promote prostate cancer chemoresistance and metastasis through the NFκB pathway. The above results suggest that CDK8/19 is an especially attractive therapeutic target for advanced PCa, which controls both AR-driven cell proliferation and other oncogenic pathways.

Citation Format: Mengqian Chen, Vimala Kaza, Jiaxin Liang, Martina McDermott, Igor Roninson. Transcription-regulating kinases CDK8 and CDK19 as novel therapeutic targets for advanced prostate cancer. [abstract]. In: Proceedings of the 105th Annual Meeting of the American Association for Cancer Research; 2014 Apr 5-9; San Diego, CA. Philadelphia (PA): AACR; Cancer Res 2014;74(19 Suppl):Abstract nr 616. doi:10.1158/1538-7445.AM2014-616