Prostate cancer is the most common malignancy in males in the western world. However, little is known about its origin and development. This review highlights the biology of the normal prostate gland and the differentiation of basal epithelial cells to a secretory phenotype. Alterations in this differentiation process leading to cancer and androgen-independent disease are discussed, as well as a full characterization of prostate epithelial cells. A full understanding of the origin and characteristics of prostate cancer epithelial cells will be important if we are to develop therapeutic strategies to combat the heterogeneous nature of this disease.

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