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Cancer Res. 2009 Nov 1;69(21):8395-402. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-09-1995. Epub 2009 Oct 20.

Pegylated kunitz domain inhibitor suppresses hepsin-mediated invasive tumor growth and metastasis.

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Department of Protein Engineering, Genentech, South San Francisco, California 94080, USA.


The transmembrane serine protease hepsin is one of the most highly upregulated genes in prostate cancer. Here, we investigated its tumor-promoting activity by use of a mouse orthotopic prostate cancer model. First, we compared the tumor growth of low hepsin-expressing LnCaP-17 cells with hepsin-overexpressing LnCaP-34 cells. After implantation of cells into the left anterior prostate lobe, LnCaP-34 tumors not only grew faster based on increased serum prostate-specific antigen levels but also metastasized to local lymph nodes and, most remarkably, invaded the contralateral side of the prostate at a rate of 100% compared with only 18% for LnCaP-17 tumors. The increased tumor growth was not due to nonspecific gene expression changes and was not predicted from the unaltered in vitro growth and invasion of LnCaP-34 cells. A likely explanation is that the in vivo effects of hepsin were mediated by specific hepsin substrates present in the tumor stroma. In a second study, mice bearing LnCaP-34 tumors were treated with a PEGylated form of Kunitz domain-1, a potent hepsin active site inhibitor derived from hepatocyte growth factor activator inhibitor-1 (K(i)(app) 0.30 +/- 0.02 nmol/L). Treatment of established tumors with PEGylated Kunitz domain-1 decreased contralateral prostate invasion (46% weight reduction) and lymph node metastasis (50% inhibition). Moreover, serum prostate-specific antigen level remained reduced during the entire treatment period, reaching a maximal reduction of 76% after 5 weeks of dosing. The findings show that hepsin promotes invasive prostate tumor growth and metastasis and suggest that active site-directed hepsin inhibition could be effective in prostate cancer therapy.

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