Hormonal therapy targeting androgen receptor (AR) is initially effective to treat prostate cancer (PCa), but it eventually fails. It has been hypothesized that cellular heterogeneity of PCa, consisting of AR+ luminal tumor cells and AR− neuroendocrine (NE) tumor cells, may contribute to therapy failure. Here, we describe the successful purification of NE cells from primary fresh human prostate adenocarcinoma based on the cell surface receptor C-X-C motif chemokine receptor 2 (CXCR2). Functional studies revealed CXCR2 to be a driver of the NE phenotype, including loss of AR expression, lineage plasticity, and resistance to hormonal therapy. CXCR2-driven NE cells were critical for the tumor microenvironment by providing a survival niche for the AR+ luminal cells. We demonstrate that the combination of CXCR2 inhibition and AR targeting is an effective treatment strategy in mouse xenograft models. Such a strategy has the potential to overcome therapy resistance caused by tumor cell heterogeneity.
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