Hormonally induced defects of DNA damage repair genes: an oncogenic driver of prostate cancer
Document TypePhD thesis
Access StatusOpen Access
© 2018 Dr. Patrick James McCoy
Patients with defects in the mismatch repair pathway, driven by either MSH2 or MSH6 loss, experience a significant increase in the incidence of prostate cancer, while germline mismatch repair defects in either MLH1 or PMS2, exhibit no such increase. This PhD project demonstrates that androgen-receptor activation, a known driver of prostate cancer, can disrupt the MSH2 gene in prostate cancer model systems through the induction of structural variations. Prostate tumours from two contrasting risk cohorts were screened to confirm loss of MSH2 protein expression in a small number of patients. Surprisingly, it was also found that a small but significant fraction of high-risk cases exhibited reduced expression of MSH2 without complete loss. Stratifying a large independent TCGA prostate cancer cohort for MSH2 expression levels revealed that patients whose tumours exhibited either complete loss or aberrant levels of MSH2 had significantly worse survival outcomes and accelerated clinical progression. In contrast, aberrant MSH2 levels had no impact on clinical survival in colorectal cancer. This PhD project also demonstrates that reduced expression of MSH2 can be explained by androgen-induced microRNA regulatory mechanisms. Here, it is demonstrated that miR-21 and miR-141 may both target the MSH2 gene leading to reduced MSH2 protein staining and both microRNAs were seen to be upregulated in prostate cancer patients with reduced MSH2 levels. Interestingly, this thesis also shows that miR-21 and miR-141 are both regulated by androgens, implicating this mechanism as a second androgen driven method of MSH2 downregulation. Importantly this PhD project also found that aberrant MSH2 expression in prostate tumours does not induce the same enhanced immune cell mobilisation seen in colorectal tumours suggesting that the prostate is an immune privileged site. This is contrary to the findings of other studies and may warrant a re-evaluation of whether MSH2 deficient prostate cancers are likely to benefit from immunotherapies. To further investigate if the prostate tumour microenvironment is indeed in an immunosuppressive state, a detailed investigation of the transcriptomic profile of the cells of the tumour microenvironment was also conducted. This resulted in not only the discovery of immunosuppressive signatures in tumour infiltrating T-cells but also significant transcriptomic alterations in other cancer associated pathways such as osteogenesis, cell migration, epithelial mesenchymal transition (EMT), hormone signalling and angiogenesis throughout the tumour microenvironment compared to the cellular make-up of benign prostatic tissue. The data presented in this thesis constitute a significant contribution to the current understanding of how defects in the mismatch repair gene MSH2 may affect prostate cancer severity. Additionally, these studies demonstrate multiple mechanisms through which the prostate tumour microenvironment may enhance prostate cancer progression.
Keywordsprostate cancer; cancer; androgen; MSH2
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