Androgen receptor variant-driven prostate cancer II: advances in laboratory investigations

Changxue Lu, Landon C. Brown, Emmanuel S. Antonarakis, Andrew J. Armstrong, Jun Luo

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Background: The androgen receptor (AR) is a key prostate cancer drug target. Suppression of AR signaling mediated by the full-length AR (AR-FL) is the therapeutic goal of all existing AR-directed therapies. AR-targeting agents impart therapeutic benefit, but lead to AR aberrations that underlie disease progression and therapeutic resistance. Among the AR aberrations specific to castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC), AR variants (AR-Vs) have emerged as important indicators of disease progression and therapeutic resistance. Methods: We conducted a systemic review of the literature focusing on recent laboratory studies on AR-Vs following our last review article published in 2016. Topics ranged from measurement and detection, molecular origin, regulation, genomic function, and preclinical therapeutic targeting of AR-Vs. We provide expert opinions and perspectives on these topics. Results: Transcript sequences for 22 AR-Vs have been reported in the literature. Different AR-Vs may arise through different mechanisms, and can be regulated by splicing factors and dictated by genomic rearrangements, but a low-androgen environment is a prerequisite for generation of AR-Vs. The unique transcript structures allowed development of in situ and in-solution measurement and detection methods, including mRNA and protein detection, in both tissue and blood specimens. AR-V7 remains the main measurement target and the most extensively characterized AR-V. Although AR-V7 coexists with AR-FL, genomic functions mediated by AR-V7 do not require the presence of AR-FL. The distinct cistromes and transcriptional programs directed by AR-V7 and their coregulators are consistent with genomic features of progressive disease in a low-androgen environment. Preclinical development of AR-V-directed agents currently focuses on suppression of mRNA expression and protein degradation as well as targeting of the amino-terminal domain. Conclusions: Current literature continues to support AR-Vs as biomarkers and therapeutic targets in prostate cancer. Laboratory investigations reveal both challenges and opportunities in targeting AR-Vs to overcome resistance to current AR-directed therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)381-397
Number of pages17
JournalProstate Cancer and Prostatic Diseases
Issue number3
StatePublished - Sep 1 2020
Externally publishedYes

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
Acknowledgements ESA has received funding from the Prostate Cancer Foundation, the Patrick C. Walsh Fund, and NIH grants R01 CA185297 and P30 CA006973. AJA has received funding from a Prostate Cancer Foundation and Movember Global Treatment Sciences Challenge Award and the NIH under a P30 CA014236 and 1R01CA233585-01 grant. JL is currently funded by a Prostate Cancer Foundation grant, NIH grant R01 CA185297, and US Department of Defense Prostate Cancer Research Program grant W81XWH-19-1-0686.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2020, The Author(s), under exclusive licence to Springer Nature Limited.

PubMed: MeSH publication types

  • Journal Article
  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Systematic Review


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