The prostate-specific membrane antigen: Lessons and current clinical implications from 20 years of research

Benjamin T. Ristau, Denise S. O'Keefe, Dean J. Bacich

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

99 Scopus citations


Objective: Despite a multitude of detection and treatment advances in the past 2 decades, prostate cancer remains the second leading cause of deaths due to cancer among men in the United States. Technological evolution and expanding knowledge of tumor biomarkers have invigorated exploration in prostate cancer therapeutics. Prostate-specific membrane antigen (PSMA) was one of the first prostate cancer biomarkers successfully cloned. Since then, it has been characterized as the prototypical cell-surface marker for prostate cancer and has been the subject of intense clinical inquiry. In this article, we review the relevant research in PSMA on the 20th anniversary of its cloning. Methods and materials: A PubMed search using the keywords "prostate-specific membrane antigen" or "glutamate carboxypeptidase II" provided 1019 results. An additional 3 abstracts were included from scientific meetings. Articles were vetted by title and abstract with emphasis placed on those with clinically relevant findings. Results: Sixty articles were selected for inclusion. PSMA was discovered and cloned in 1993. Its structure and function were further delineated in the ensuing decade. Consensus sites of expression in normal physiology are prostate, kidney, nervous system, and small intestine. PSMA has been implicated in the neovasculature of several tumors including urothelial and renal cell carcinomas. In prostate cancer, expression of PSMA is directly related to the Gleason grade. PSMA has been tested both in imaging and therapeutics in a number of prostate cancer clinical trials. Several recent approaches to target PSMA include the use of small molecule inhibitors, PSMA-based immunotherapy, RNA aptamer conjugates, and PSMA-targeted prodrug therapy. Future study of PSMA in prostate cancer might focus on its intracellular functions and possible role in tumor neurogenesis. Conclusions: Twenty years from its discovery, PSMA represents a viable biomarker and treatment target in prostate cancer. Research to delineate its precise role in prostate carcinogenesis and within the therapeutic armamentarium for patients with prostate cancer remains encouraging.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)272-279
Number of pages8
JournalUrologic Oncology: Seminars and Original Investigations
Issue number3
StatePublished - Apr 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Cancer therapeutics
  • Folate
  • Prostate cancer
  • Prostate-specific membrane antigen
  • Tumor markers

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Urology


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