Enzalutamide and Apalutamide: In Vitro Chemical Reactivity Studies and Activity in a Mouse Drug Allergy Model

Enzalutamide and apalutamide are two androgen receptor inhibitors approved for the treatment of castration-resistant prostate cancer (CRPC) and nonmetastatic castration-resistant prostate cancer (nmCRPC), respectively. Apalutamide is associated with an increased incidence of skin rash above the placebo groups in the SPARTAN trial in nmCRPC and in the TITAN trial in metastatic castration-sensitive prostate cancer patients. On the contrary, the rate of skin rash across all clinical trials (including PROSPER [nmCRPC]) for enzalutamide is similar to the placebo. We hypothesized that the apalutamide-associated increased skin rash in patients could be linked to a structural difference. The 2-cyanophenyl and dimethyl moieties in enzalutamide are substituted in apalutamide with 2-cyanopyridine and cyclobutyl, respectively. In our evaluations, the 2-cyanopyridine moiety of apalutamide was chemically reactive with the thiol nucleophile glutathione, resulting in rearranged thiazoline products. Radiolabeled apalutamide, but not radiolabeled enzalutamide, was shown to react with mouse and human plasma proteins. Thiol nucleophiles decreased the extent of covalent binding to the model protein bovine serum albumin, whereas amine and alcohol nucleophiles had no effect, suggesting reactivity with cysteine of proteins. Subcutaneous administration of apalutamide dose dependently increased lymphocyte cellularity in draining lymph nodes in a mouse drug allergy model (MDAM). Enzalutamide, and its known analogue RD162 in which the cyanophenyl was retained but the dimethyl was replaced by cyclobutyl, demonstrated substantially less covalent binding activity and negative results in the MDAM assay. Collectively, these data support the hypothesis that the 2-cyanopyridine moiety in apalutamide may react with cysteine in proteins forming haptens, which may trigger an immune response, as indicated by the activity of apalutamide in the MDAM assay, which in turn may be leading to increased potential for skin rash versus placebo in patients in the SPARTAN and TITAN clinical trials.