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Mol Pathol. 2000 Dec;53(6):307-12.

Plasminogen activator system, vascular endothelial growth factor, and colorectal cancer progression.

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  • 1North Tees General Hospital, Stockton on Tees TS19 8PE, UK.



To plasminogen activator system (PAS) consists of the plasminogen activators (urokinase (uPA) and tissue-type (tPA) plasminogen activators), the uPA receptor (uPAR), and the plasminogen activator inhibitors (PAI-1 and PAI-2). Plasminogen activators activate plasminogen to plasmin, which can break down extracellular matrix (ECM) components. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a mitogen for endothelial cells and is involved in angiogenesis. VEGF has been shown to upregulate uPA and this may facilitate tumour angiogenesis further.


PAS components and VEGF were determined by enzyme linked immunosorbent assay (ELISA) in paired colorectal tumour and normal tissue (n = 50) and correlated with pathological staging.


uPA, uPAR, PAI-1, and VEGF values were significantly higher in tumour tissue (for example, tumour uPA: median, 2.3 (range, 0.1-6.7) ng/mg protein v normal uPA: median, 0.2 (range, 0-2.6) ng/mg protein). tPA was significantly higher in normal mucosa and there was no difference in PAI-2. uPA, uPAR, PAI-1, and VEGF values significantly correlated with each other and with Dukes's staging (uPA in adenomas: median, 0.42 (range, 0.1-1.2) ng/mg protein; upA in Dukes's B tumours: median, 2.1 (range, 0.4-4.3) ng/mg protein; and uPA in Dukes's D tumours: median, 4.0 (range, 3.7-4.2) ng/mg protein) and lymphatic invasion. In addition PAI-1 also correlated with tumour size and differentiation.


The involvement of the PAS and VEGF in colorectal cancer appears to be complex. uPA, uPAR, PAI-1, and VEGF were upregulated in tumour tissue and this correlated with Dukes's staging and lymphatic invasion.

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