Prostate cancer cells, like normal prostate epithelial cells, produce high levels of the differentiation marker and serine protease prostate-specific antigen (PSA). PSA is used extensively as a biomarker to screen for prostate cancer, to detect recurrence following local therapies, and to follow response to systemic therapies for metastatic disease. While much is known about PSA's role as a biomarker, only a relatively few studies address the role played by PSA in the pathobiology of prostate cancer. Autopsy studies have documented that not only do prostate cancer cells maintain production of high amounts of PSA but they also maintain the enzymatic machinery required to process PSA to an enzymatically active form. A variety studies performed over the last 10 years have hinted at a role for PSA in growth, progression, and metastases of prostate cancer. A fuller understanding of PSA's functional role in prostate cancer biology, however, has been hampered by the lack of appropriate models and tools. Therefore, the purpose of this review is not to address issues related to PSA as a biomarker. Instead, by reviewing what is known about the genetics, biochemistry, and biology of PSA in normal and malignant prostate tissue, insights may be gained into the role PSA may be playing in the pathobiology of prostate cancer that can connect measurement of this biomarker to an understanding of the underlying etiology and progression of the disease.
(c) 2006 Wiley-Liss, Inc.