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J Urol. 1994 Nov;152(5 Pt 2):1927-31.

The prostatic endocrine-paracrine (neuroendocrine) regulatory system and neuroendocrine differentiation in prostatic carcinoma: a review and future directions in basic research.

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  • 1Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, New York 14642.


Endocrine-paracrine (neuroendocrine, amine precursor uptake and decarboxylation [APUD]) cells of the prostato-urethral region are serotonin and peptide containing regulatory cells, which are part of a dispersed neuroendocrine regulatory system also known as the APUD system. These cells most likely regulate growth and differentiation, as well as the secretory functions of the prostate. Prostatic carcinoma exhibits neuroendocrine differentiation in 3 forms: 1) small cell neuroendocrine carcinoma, 2) carcinoid-like tumors and 3) conventional prostatic adenocarcinoma with focal neuroendocrine differentiation. Small cell carcinoma and carcinoid-like tumors are rather rare (1 to 2% of all prostatic malignancies) and generally pursue an aggressive course. Focal neuroendocrine differentiation in adenocarcinoma is extensive in 10% of the cases and may be present in virtually all adenocarcinomas to a minor degree. There are conflicting studies on the prognostic significance of focal neuroendocrine differentiation in prostatic carcinoma, although several suggest a poor prognosis. The finding that serum neuroendocrine markers predict initial insensitivity to or the development of resistance to hormonal suppression therapy, coupled with the recent observation that androgen receptor is not expressed in neoplastic neuroendocrine cells suggests that neuroendocrine differentiation directly results in resistance to hormonal manipulation therapy. Neuroendocrine differentiation in prostatic carcinoma raises the possibility of innovative modes of treatment. Future directions of research should concentrate on the quantitative analysis of serotonin and various peptides in prostatic malignancy, since high levels of constitutive secretion may not be appreciated by immunocytochemistry, as well as analysis of tumors for receptors to neuroendocrine products, which are necessary for these products to have a functional role. Finally, specific subtypes of neoplastic cells with neuroendocrine differentiation based on serotonin and peptide profiles should be analyzed.

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