11-oxygenated androgens are a class of steroids capable of activating the androgen receptor (AR) at physiologically relevant concentrations. In view of the AR as a key driver of prostate cancer (PC), these steroids are potential drivers of disease and progression. The 11-oxygenated androgens are adrenal-derived, and persist after androgen deprivation therapy (ADT), the mainstay treatment for advanced PC. Consequently, these steroids are of particular interest in the castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) setting.
The principal androgen of the pathway, 11-ketotestosterone (11KT), is a potent AR agonist and the predominant circulating active androgen in CRPC patients. Additionally, several precursor steroids are present in the circulation which can be converted into active androgens by steroidogenic enzymes present in PC cells. In vitro evidence suggests that adaptations frequently observed in CRPC favour the intratumoral accumulation of 11-oxygenated androgens in particular. Still, apparent gaps in our understanding of the physiology and role of the 11-oxygenated androgens remain.
In particular, in vivo and clinical evidence supporting these in vitro findings is limited. Despite recent advances, a comprehensive assessment of intratumoral concentrations has not yet been performed. The exact contribution of the 11-oxygenated androgens to CRPC progression therefore remains unclear. This review will focus on the current evidence linking the 11-oxygenated androgens to PC, will highlight current gaps in our knowledge, and will provide insight into the potential clinical importance of the 11-oxygenated androgens in the CRPC setting based on the current evidence.
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