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Clin Chem. 2002 Aug;48(8):1198-205.

Human tissue kallikreins: a family of new cancer biomarkers.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, Mount Sinai Hospital, Toronto, Ontario, Canada. ediamandis@mtsinai.on.ca


Kallikreins are a subgroup of the serine protease enzyme family. Until recently, it was thought that the human kallikrein gene family contained only three members. In the past 3 years, the entire human kallikrein gene locus was discovered and found to contain 15 kallikrein genes. Kallikreins are expressed in many tissues, including steroid hormone-producing or hormone-dependent tissues such as the prostate, breast, ovary, and testis. Most, if not all, kallikreins are regulated by steroid hormones in cancer cell lines. There is strong but circumstantial evidence linking kallikreins and cancer. Prostate-specific antigen (PSA; hK3) and, more recently, human glandular kallikrein (hK2) are widely used tumor markers for prostate cancer. Three other kallikreins, hK6, hK10, and hK11, are emerging new serum biomarkers for ovarian and prostate cancer diagnosis and prognosis. Several other kallikreins are differentially expressed at both the mRNA and protein levels in various endocrine-related malignancies, and they have prognostic value. The coexpression of many kallikreins in the same tissues (healthy and malignant) points to the possible involvement of kallikreins in cascade enzymatic pathways. In addition to their diagnostic/prognostic potential, kallikreins may also emerge as attractive targets for therapeutics.

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