Argininosuccinate Synthetase-1 (ASS1) Loss in High-Grade Neuroendocrine Carcinomas of the Urinary Bladder: Implications for Targeted Therapy with ADI-PEG 20

Sounak Gupta, Divya Sahu, John S. Bomalaski, Igor Frank, Stephen A. Boorjian, Prabin Thapa, John C. Cheville, Donna E. Hansel

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

4 Scopus citations


High-grade neuroendocrine carcinomas (HGNECs) of the urinary bladder encompass small cell (SCNEC) and large cell neuroendocrine carcinomas (LCNEC). Currently, recommended initial management is with systemic chemotherapy, followed by consolidative therapy with either radical cystectomy or radiotherapy in patients with localized disease. Nevertheless, survival in this setting remains poor. We therefore evaluated the potential to modify arginine metabolism as an alternative, targeted therapy approach in these carcinomas. In humans, arginine is a semi-essential amino acid and its synthesis enzyme argininosuccinate synthetase (ASS1) represents the rate-limiting step in arginine biosynthesis. Neoplasms that show low to absent ASS1 expression require extracellular arginine for cancer cell survival, and thus can be targeted using arginine-degrading enzymes such as pegylated arginine deiminase (ADI-PEG 20). An initial study by our group of 19 patients demonstrated that a high percentage of SCNEC lack ASS1 expression. Herein, we evaluated an expanded cohort of 74 radical cystectomy patients with HGNEC, including 63 SCNEC, 5 LCNEC, and 6 mixed morphology HGNEC patients. ASS1 expression was assessed through immunohistochemistry. Fifty-eight (of 74, 78%) patients with HGNEC showed absent ASS1 expression, including all patients with LCNEC and mixed morphology (11 of 11, 100%). Ten-year survival from disease-specific death was not statistically significant between ASS1-expressing and ASS1-deficient cases (p = 0.75). Our results show that HGNEC of the bladder may be candidates for arginine deprivation therapy using drugs such as ADI-PEG 20. Further studies are needed to validate these findings and to determine the therapeutic efficacy of such agents.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1-6
Number of pages6
JournalEndocrine Pathology
StateAccepted/In press - Feb 16 2018


  • Argininosuccinate Synthetase
  • High-grade neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Large cell neuroendocrine carcinoma
  • Small cell carcinoma
  • Urinary bladder

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Endocrinology, Diabetes and Metabolism
  • Endocrinology


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