Overcoming bcl-2- and p53-mediated resistance in prostate cancer

R. S. DiPaola, J. Aisner

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

62 Scopus citations


Most prostate cancers eventually develop resistance to hormonal therapy and chemotherapies. Many mechanisms for resistance to chemotherapy have been identified. Mutations or inactivation of the p53 suppressor gene and overexpression of bcl-2 are among such mechanisms. Mutations in the p53 gene can lead to resistance to certain chemotherapy agents, and such mutations are seen more often in metastatic than in primary prostate cancers. Thus, agents that are active in the setting of mutated p53 may have some advantage in prostate cancer. Overexpression of bcl-2 occurs frequently in prostate cancer and is associated with both hormonal therapy and chemotherapy resistance. In experimental systems, bcl-2 overexpression occurs after androgen deprivation and transfection of bcl-2 into sensitive cell lines makes them resistant to chemotherapy and hormonal therapies. Bcl-2 can be inactivated by phosphorylation as occurs with taxanes. The retinoids, as a class, can inhibit the growth of resistant cell lines that overexpress bcl-2, and the combination of interferon (IFN) and cis-retinoic acid (CRA) demonstrated increased antitumor activity. In our cell line model the combination of IFN and CRA greatly enhanced the cytotoxicity of paclitaxel (Taxol; Bristol- Myers Squibb Company, Princeton, NJ). Based on these observations, we conducted a phase I/II trial of CRA and IFN-α in patients with biochemical recurrence of prostate cancer. Twenty-six percent achieved a decrease of prostate-specific antigen (PSA), which was correlated to elevated serum transforming growth factor-β. We then conducted a phase I trial of 13-CRA, IFN-α, and escalating doses of paclitaxel. Eighteen patients were treated with 1 mg/kg CRA and 1 x 106 unit IFN on days 1 to 4 and paclitaxel at doses from 100 to 175 mg/m2. Eleven patients received the 175 mg/m2 paclitaxel dose. Two patients in the phase I study achieved partial responses (one cervix and one prostate cancer). We subsequently initiated a phase II study of 13-CRA, IFN-α, and paclitaxel in hormone refractory prostate cancer. For entry patients must show progressive disease after androgen ablation. To test the mechanism of action, we are assaying peripheral blood monocytes and, when possible, tumor tissue for bcl-2 expression. As our understanding of the mechanisms of tumor resistance to chemotherapy improves, we will be able to design better approaches in treatment targeted to overcome the mechanisms of resistance.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)112-116
Number of pages5
JournalSeminars in Oncology
Issue number1 SUPPL. 2
StatePublished - 1999

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Hematology
  • Oncology


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