Prostate cancer stem cells: deciphering the origins and pathways involved in prostate tumorigenesis and aggression

Adrian P. Rybak _, Robert G. Bristow and Anil Kapoor

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Oncotarget. 2015; 6:1900-1919. https://doi.org/10.18632/oncotarget.2953

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Adrian P. Rybak1,2 Robert G. Bristow3,4 and Anil Kapoor1,2

1 McMaster Institute of Urology, Division of Urology, Department of Surgery, McMaster University, ON, Canada

2 St. Joseph’s Hospital, Hamilton, ON, Canada

3 Princess Margaret Cancer Centre (University Health Network), ON, Canada

4 Departments of Radiation Oncology and Medical Biophysics, University of Toronto, Toronto, ON, Canada


Adrian P. Rybak, email:

Anil Kapoor, email:

Keywords: Prostate cancer stem cell, Self-renewal, Castration-resistant prostate cancer, MEK-ERK (MAPK) and STAT3, PTEN and PI3K/AKT

Received: October 03, 2014 Accepted: December 09, 2014 Published: December 10, 2014


The cells of the prostate gland are dependent on cell signaling pathways to regulate their growth, maintenance and function. However, perturbations in key signaling pathways, resulting in neoplastic transformation of cells in the prostate epithelium, are likely to generate subtypes of prostate cancer which may subsequently require different treatment regimes. Accumulating evidence supports multiple sources of stem cells in the prostate epithelium with distinct cellular origins for prostate tumorigenesis documented in animal models, while human prostate cancer stem-like cells (PCSCs) are typically enriched by cell culture, surface marker expression and functional activity assays. As future therapies will require a deeper understanding of its cellular origins as well as the pathways that drive PCSC maintenance and tumorigenesis, we review the molecular and functional evidence supporting dysregulation of PI3K/AKT, RAS/MAPK and STAT3 signaling in PCSCs, the development of castration resistance, and as a novel treatment approach for individual men with prostate cancer.

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