Polo-like kinase 1 (PLK1) is an essential protein in communicating cell-cycle progression and DNA damage. Overexpression of PLK1 has been validated as a marker for poor prognosis in many cancers. PLK1 knockdown decreases the survival of cancer cells. PLK1 is therefore an attractive target for anticancer treatments. Several inhibitors have been developed, and some have been clinically tested to show additive effects with conventional therapies. Upstream regulation of PLK1 involves multiple interactions of proteins such as FoxM1, E2F and p21. Other cancer-related proteins such as pRB and p53 also indirectly influence PLK1 expression. With the high mutation rates of these genes seen in cancers, they may be associated with PLK1 deregulation. This raises the question of whether PLK1 overexpression is a cause or a consequence of oncogenesis. In addition, hypomethylation of the CpG island of the PLK1 promoter region contributes to its upregulation. PLK1 expression can be affected by many factors; thus, it is possible that PLK1 deregulation in each individual patient tumours could be due to different underlying mechanisms.