Several solid tumors have now been shown to contain stem cell-like cells called cancer stem cells (CSC). These cells, although generally rare, appear to be highly tumorigenic and may be the cells that drive tumor formation, maintain tumor homeostasis, and mediate tumor metastasis. In this Perspective, we first provide our insight on how a CSC should be defined. We then summarize our current knowledge of stem/progenitor cells in the normal human prostate (NHP), an organ highly susceptible to hyperproliferative diseases such as benign prostate hyperplasia (BPH) and prostate cancer (PCa). We further review the evidence that cultured PCa cells, xenograft prostate tumors, and patient tumors may contain stem/progenitor cells. Along with our discussion, we present several methodologies that can be potentially used to identify putative tumor-reinitiating CSC. Finally, we present a hypothetical model for the hierarchical organization of human PCa cells and discuss the implications of this model in helping understand prostate carcinogenesis and design novel diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic approaches.
Copyright 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.