Suramin, a polyanionic compound with known antiparasitic activity, has been shown to be adrenocorticolytic in primates and to have clinical efficacy in the treatment of patients with metastatic prostate cancer refractory to conventional hormonal manipulation. To better characterize the activity of suramin on prostate cancer biology, we studied the effect of the drug on plasma adrenal androgens of patients and on the human prostate adenocarcinoma cell lines PC-3, DU 145 and LNCaP-FGC. Five cancer patients treated with suramin had an approximate 40% decline in circulating androstenedione, dehydroepiandrosterone and dehydroepiandrosterone sulfate levels. The drug inhibited the colony formation in two of the three cell lines at concentrations clinically achievable in humans without excessive drug-related toxicity. The presence of suramin 300 μg./ml. partially inhibited the growth stimulatory effect of testosterone and basic fibroblast growth factor, but not that of epidermal growth factor. The cellular concentration of suramin following exposure to a single dose increases linearly over time in each of the cell lines with LNCaP-FGC accumulating the highest levels of the drug; cellular levels of suramin, not androgen or growth factor sensitivity, correlated with the sensitivity to the drug. The concentrations of prostatic acid phosphatase and prostatic specific antigen released by LNCaP-FGC cells in cell culture medium declined in the presence of increasing levels of suramin in a manner which exceeded the decrease in cell number. We conclude that suramin, aside from decreasing circulating androgens through its adrenocorticolytic effect, is also capable exerting a direct inhibitory effect on cell proliferation of prostate cancer cells, and interfere at a cellular level with the growth stimulatory effects of exogenous testosterone and basic fibroblast growth factor.
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