Purpose:

Neuroendocrine prostate cancer (NEPC) is a resistance phenotype that emerges in men with metastatic castration-resistant prostate adenocarcinoma (CR-PRAD) and has important clinical implications, but is challenging to detect in practice. Herein, we report a novel tissue–informed epigenetic approach to noninvasively detect NEPC.

Experimental Design:

We first performed methylated immunoprecipitation and high-throughput sequencing (MeDIP-seq) on a training set of tumors, identified differentially methylated regions between NEPC and CR-PRAD, and built a model to predict the presence of NEPC (termed NEPC Risk Score). We then performed MeDIP-seq on cell-free DNA (cfDNA) from two independent cohorts of men with NEPC or CR-PRAD and assessed the accuracy of the model to predict the presence NEPC.

Results:

The test cohort comprised cfDNA samples from 48 men, 9 with NEPC and 39 with CR-PRAD. NEPC Risk Scores were significantly higher in men with NEPC than CR-PRAD (P = 4.3 × 10–7) and discriminated between NEPC and CR-PRAD with high accuracy (AUROC 0.96). The optimal NEPC Risk Score cutoff demonstrated 100% sensitivity and 90% specificity for detecting NEPC. The independent, multi-institutional validation cohort included cfDNA from 53 men, including 12 with NEPC and 41 with CR-PRAD. NEPC Risk Scores were significantly higher in men with NEPC than CR-PRAD (P = 7.5×10–12) and perfectly discriminated NEPC from CR-PRAD (AUROC 1.0). Applying the predefined NEPC Risk Score cutoff to the validation cohort resulted in 100% sensitivity and 95% specificity for detecting NEPC.

Conclusions:

Tissue-informed cfDNA methylation analysis is a promising approach for noninvasive detection of NEPC in men with advanced prostate cancer.

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