Lethal phenotypes of human prostate cancer are characterized by progression to androgen-independence and metastasis. For want of a clinically relevant animal model, mechanisms behind this progression remain unclear. Our study used an in vivo model of androgen-sensitive LNCaP human prostate cancer cell xenografts in male SCID mice to study the cellular and molecular biology of tumor progression. Primary tumors were established orthotopically, and the mice were then surgically castrated to withdraw androgens. Five generations of androgen-independent tumors were developed using castrated host mice. Tumor samples were used to determine expressions of cellular and molecular markers. Androgen-independent tumors had increased proliferation and decreased apoptosis compared to androgen-sensitive tumors, outcomes associated with elevated expression of p53, p21/waf1, bcl-2, bax and the bcl-2/bax ratio. Blood vessel growth in androgen-independent tumor was associated with increased expression of vascular endothelial growth factor. Overexpression of androgen receptor mRNA and reduced expression of androgen receptor protein in androgen-independent tumors suggest that the androgen receptor signaling pathway may play an important role in the progression of human prostate cancer to androgen-independence. The in vivo orthotopic LNCaP tumor model described in our study mimics the clinical course of human prostate cancer progression. As such, it can be used as a model for defining the molecular mechanisms of prostate cancer progression to androgen-independence and for evaluating the effect of preventive or therapeutic regimens for androgen-independent human prostate cancer. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.