The full characterization of the human kallikrein gene locus has allowed identification of all members of this gene family on chromosome 19q13.4 and the establishment of common structural criteria, at both the mRNA and protein level. The human kallikrein gene family now consists of 15 members; their mRNA and protein structure, tissue expression and hormonal regulation patterns have been delineated. In addition to prostate-specific antigen (PSA, hK3), which is an established tumor marker for prostate cancer diagnosis and follow-up, and human glandular kallikrein (hK2), an emerging prostate cancer biomarker, accumulating evidence indicates that many other members of the human kallikrein gene family are also implicated in endocrine-related malignancies. Many kallikreins are differentially regulated in breast, prostate, ovarian and testicular cancers. In addition, preliminary reports indicate that three newly identified kallikreins (hK6, hK10 and hK11) are serum biomarkers for diagnosis and monitoring of ovarian and prostate cancer. The mechanism by which kallikreins might be involved in the pathogenesis and/or progression of cancer is not as yet fully understood. Preliminary reports indicate a possible role of kallikreins in controlling vital processes, like apoptosis, angiogenesis and tumor metastasis by cleavage of critical substrates such as growth factors, hormones or extracellular matrix. In this review, we present data on the differential expression of kallikreins in cancer at both the mRNA and protein levels, and propose future directions of research towards our understanding of the involvement of kallikreins in cancer and their possible diagnostic, prognostic and therapeutic applications.
Copyright 2002 S. Karger AG, Basel