Although intravesical bacillus Calmette-Guérin (BCG) immunotherapy has been the gold standard for nonsurgical management of non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer, a considerable number of patients exhibit resistance to the adjuvant treatment with unexplained mechanisms. This study aimed to investigate whether and how androgen receptor (AR) signals modulate BCG cytotoxicity in bladder cancer. AR knockdown or overexpression in bladder cancer lines resulted in induction or reduction, respectively, in intracellular BCG quantity and its cytotoxic activity. Microarray screening identified Rab27b, a small GTPase known to mediate bacterial exocytosis, which was upregulated in BCG-resistant cells and downregulated in AR-shRNA cells. Knockdown of Rab27b, or its effector SYTL3, or overexpression of Rab27b also induced or reduced, respectively, BCG quantity and cytotoxicity. In addition, treatment with GW4869, which was previously shown to inhibit Rab27bdependent secretion, induced them and reduced Rab27b expression in bladder cancer cells. Meanwhile, AR expression was upregulated in BCG-resistant lines, compared with respective controls. In a mouse orthotopic xenograft model, Rab27b/SYTL3 knockdown or GW4869 treatment enhanced the amount of BCG within tumors and its suppressive effect on tumor growth. Moreover, in non–muscle-invasive bladder cancer specimens from patients subsequently undergoing BCG therapy, positivity of AR/Rab27b expression was associated with significantly higher risks of tumor recurrence. AR activation thus correlates with resistance to BCG treatment, presumably via upregulating Rab27b expression. Mechanistically, it is suggested that BCG elimination from urothelial cells is induced by Rab27b/SYTL3-mediated exocytosis. Accordingly, Rab27b inactivation, potentially via antiandrogenic drugs and/or exocytosis inhibition are anticipated to sensitize the efficacy of BCG therapy, especially in patients with BCG-refractory AR/Rab27bpositive bladder cancer.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research