The Molecular Biology of Prostate Cancer

Sarah Ngan and Jonathan Waxman

Prostate cancer is the most frequently diagnosed malignancy among men in industrialized countries. In the United States, one in eight men will develop prostate cancer during their lifetime [1], and in 1999 approximately 37,000 died from the disease [2]. In England and Wales, 17,000 cases are diagnosed and there are nearly 9000 deaths annually from prostate cancer [3].

Advances in our understanding of the molecular basis of cancer have led to the characterization of critical pathways regulating tumor growth, which should provide the potential for the development of more effective and less toxic targeted therapies. In 1941 Huggins and Hodges first demonstrated that malignant tumors arising from the prostate were responsive to androgen withdrawal. Since then, hormonal therapy has been established as the principal treatment modality for advanced disease. Over time,however,resistance to treatment occurs. As a result, there has been much interest not only in the molecular changes associated with prostate cancer but also in the molecular mechanisms of tumor resistance. This chapter describes the current status of research into the molecular biology of prostate cancer, with emphasis on recent progress.

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