Bipolar Androgen Therapy Followed by Androgen Receptor Inhibition as Sequential Therapy for Prostate Cancer

Samuel R. Denmeade, Laura A. Sena, Hao Wang, Emmanuel S. Antonarakis, Mark C. Markowski

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review


Inhibition of androgen receptor (AR) signaling has been the mainstay of treatment of advanced prostate cancer (PCa) for the past 80 years. Combination and sequential AR-inhibiting therapies are highly effective palliative therapy, but they are not curative. All patients eventually develop resistance to primary castrating therapy [ie, castration-resistant PCa (CRPC)]. At this point, they are treated with subsequent lines of secondary AR inhibitory therapies. However, resistance to these agents also develops and patients progress to a state we have termed complete androgen inhibition-resistant PCa. This phase of the disease is associated with poor prognosis. At this point, treatment shifts to non-hormonal cytotoxic therapies (eg, chemotherapy and radiopharmaceuticals). However, the majority of PCas remain addicted to signaling through AR throughout the course of the disease. Resistant PCa cells adaptively upregulate AR activity, despite castration and AR inhibitors, via mechanisms such as AR overexpression, gene amplification, mutation, and expression of ligand-independent variants to permit sustained liganded and non-liganded AR signaling. Studies dating back nearly 30 years indicate that high expression of AR induced by prolonged castration becomes a vulnerability of CRPC cells in vitro and in mouse xenografts to supraphysiologic androgen (SPA), which induces cell death and growth arrest in this context. Based on these studies, we developed a counterintuitive treatment called bipolar androgen therapy (BAT) for patients with CRPC, in which SPA is administered intermittently to result in cycling of serum testosterone from the polar extremes of supraphysiologic to near-castrate levels. This rapid cycling is intended to disrupt the adaptive of AR regulation associated with chronic exposure to high or low levels of testosterone, while simultaneously targeting the spectrum of AR expression present in heterogeneous CRPC tumors. We have now tested BAT in >250 patients with CRPC. Here we present a review of these clinical studies, which have demonstrated collectively that BAT can be safely given to men with CRPC, improves quality of life, and produces therapeutic responses in ~30% of patients. As expected, resistance to BAT is associated with adaptive downregulation of AR expression. Intriguingly, this downregulation is associated with restoration of sensitivity to subsequent AR inhibitor therapies.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)465-473
Number of pages9
Issue number6
StatePublished - Jun 2023

Bibliographical note

Publisher Copyright:
© 2023 The Author(s). Published by Oxford University Press.


  • androgen receptor
  • bipolar androgen therapy
  • castration-resistant
  • prostate cancer

PubMed: MeSH publication types

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


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