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Volume 12, Issue 3 (May 2010) 12, 308–314; 10.1038/aja.2009.68

Small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the prostate: are heterotransplants a better experimental model?

Lluis-A. Lopez-Barcons

Stanley S. Scott Cancer Center, Louisiana State University, Health Sciences Center, New Orleans, LA 70112, USA

Correspondence: Dr Lluis-A. Lopez-Barcons,lalb93@gmail.com

Received 7 August 2009; Revised 26 August 2009; Accepted 20 September 2009; Published online 21 December 2009.


Small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the prostate (SCNCP) is an uncommon type of prostate cancer. However, it is of clinical importance because it is one of the most aggressive tumors of the prostate with a very poor prognosis. There exist few artificially cultured tumor cell lines to study SCNCP. Then, another approach to that study consists in the use of fresh tumor tissue obtained from patients and its heterotransplantation into host mice. The purpose of this review is to integrate data from more than 20 years of heterotransplantation research in the study of small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma of the prostate (SCNCP). Heterotransplantation has provided data regarding the histopathology, karyotype, DNA content, cell cycle frequency, tumor markers, androgen receptor expression, metastasis and take rate of this prostate disease. When possible, comparisons between original in situ specimens removed from patients and heterotransplanted tissue from host mice have been made. There are advantages, as well as limitations, that have been identified for SCNCP heterotransplants versus xenotransplantation of cultured cells. Overall, heterotransplanted tumors are better than conventional tumor xenografts at retaining tumor morphology, pathology, secretory activity and expression of tumor markers of the patient's original specimen. Furthermore, heterotransplanted tissue preserves the three-dimensional tumor architecture of the prostate to maintain critical stromal-epithelial cell interactions.

Keywords: heterotransplant; nude mice; prostate; small-cell neuroendocrine carcinoma; xenotransplant

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