Androgen receptor as a mediator and biomarker of radioresistance in triple-negative breast cancer

Corey Speers, Shuang G. Zhao, Ben Chandler, Meilan Liu, Kari Wilder-Romans, Eric Olsen, Shyam Nyati, Cassandra Ritter, Prasanna G. Alluri, Vishal Kothari, Daniel F. Hayes, Theodore S. Lawrence, Daniel E. Spratt, Daniel R. Wahl, Lori J. Pierce, Felix Y. Feng

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

34 Scopus citations


Increased rates of locoregional recurrence have been observed in triple-negative breast cancer despite chemotherapy and radiation therapy. Thus, approaches that combine therapies for radiosensitization in triple-negative breast cancer are critically needed. We characterized the radiation therapy response of 21 breast cancer cell lines and paired this radiation response data with high-throughput drug screen data to identify androgen receptor as a top target for radiosensitization. Our radiosensitizer screen nominated bicalutamide as the drug most effective in treating radiation therapy-resistant breast cancer cell lines. We subsequently evaluated the expression of androgen receptor in >2100 human breast tumor samples and 51 breast cancer cell lines and found significant heterogeneity in androgen receptor expression with enrichment at the protein and RNA level in triple-negative breast cancer. There was a strong correlation between androgen receptor RNA and protein expression across all breast cancer subtypes (R2 = 0.72, p < 0.01). In patients with triple-negative breast cancer, expression of androgen receptor above the median was associated with increased risk of locoregional recurrence after radiation therapy (hazard ratio for locoregional recurrence 2.9–3.2)) in two independent data sets, but there was no difference in locoregional recurrence in triple-negative breast cancer patients not treated with radiation therapy when stratified by androgen receptor expression. In multivariable analysis, androgen receptor expression was most significantly associated with worse local recurrence-free survival after radiation therapy (hazard ratio of 3.58) suggesting that androgen receptor expression may be a biomarker of radiation response in triple-negative breast cancer. Inhibition of androgen receptor with MDV3100 (enzalutamide) induced radiation sensitivity (enhancement ratios of 1.22–1.60) in androgen receptor-positive triple-negative breast cancer lines, but did not affect androgen receptor-negative triple-negative breast cancer or estrogen-receptor-positive, androgen receptor-negative breast cancer cell lines. androgen receptor inhibition with MDV3100 significantly radiosensitized triple-negative breast cancer xenografts in mouse models and markedly delayed tumor doubling/tripling time and tumor weight. Radiosensitization was at least partially dependent on impaired dsDNA break repair mediated by DNA protein kinase catalytic subunit. Our results implicate androgen receptor as a mediator of radioresistance in breast cancer and identify androgen receptor inhibition as a potentially effective strategy for the treatment of androgen receptorpositive radioresistant tumors.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number29
Journalnpj Breast Cancer
Issue number1
StatePublished - 2017
Externally publishedYes

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Radiology Nuclear Medicine and imaging
  • Pharmacology (medical)


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