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Cancer. 1992 Jul 1;70(1 Suppl):254-68.

Neuroendocrine differentiation in carcinoma of the prostate. Diagnostic, prognostic, and therapeutic implications.

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Department of Pathology and Laboratory Medicine, University of Rochester Medical Center, NY 14642.


Endocrine-paracrine cells of the prostate (also known as APUD or neuroendocrine cells) constitute, in addition to the basal and exocrine secretory cells, a third population of highly specialized epithelial cells in the prostate gland. These endocrine-paracrine cells contain, and most likely secrete, serotonin and calcitonin, as well as variety of other peptides. Little is known of the functional role of these cells, but they probably subserve a paracrine or local regulatory role. They may also regulate via endocrine, lumencrine, or neurocrine mechanisms. These endocrine-paracrine cells probably play a significant role during prostatic growth and differentiation as well as regulating the secretory process of the mature gland. Neuroendocrine differentiation in prostatic carcinoma occurs in the form of the relatively rare small cell carcinoma and carcinoid or carcinoid-like tumor, but most commonly as focal neuroendocrine differentiation in a conventional prostatic adenocarcinoma that is a very frequent, if not ubiquitous phenomenon, and reflects tumor cell heterogeneity mimicking the normal differentiation process. The world's literature on neuroendocrine differentiation in prostatic carcinoma is reviewed. Neuroendocrine differentiation in all types of prostatic carcinoma appears to correlate with a poor prognosis. This correlation is probably multifactorial and may relate to a positive correlation with grade, a direct resistance to hormonal manipulation, and/or autocrine/paracrine growth factor activity due to the secretion of neuroendocrine products. Neuron-specific enolase and chromogranin, as well as other neuroendocrine products, may be useful as serum markers in patients with prostatic carcinoma with neuroendocrine differentiation. New therapeutic strategies need to be developed to treat these tumors. This includes the use of specialized protocols that have been effective against neuroendocrine carcinomas arising in other organ systems.

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