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Clin Cancer Res. 2001 Aug;7(8):2396-404.

Increased expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMP)-2, MMP-9, and the urokinase-type plasminogen activator is associated with progression from benign to advanced ovarian cancer.

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  • 1Department of Obstetrics and Gynecology, Technische Universität München, Klinikum rechts der Isar, 81675 Munich, Germany.


Proteases are linked to the malignant phenotype of different solid tumors. Therefore, the expression of the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2 and MMP-9 and of the serine protease urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) and its inhibitor plasminogen activator inhibitor type 1 (PAI-1) in the progression of ovarian cancer was investigated. Gelatinolytic activity and protein expression of MMP-2 and MMP-9 were analyzed in tissue extracts of 19 cystadenomas and 18 low malignant potential (LMP) tumors, as well as 41 primary tumors of advanced ovarian cancer stage International Federation of Gynecology and Obstetrics IIIc/IV and their corresponding omentum metastases by quantitative gelatin zymography and Western blot. In the same tissue extracts, antigen levels of uPA and its inhibitor PAI-1 were determined by ELISA. Protein expression of pro-MMP-2 (72 kDa) and pro-MMP-9 (92 kDa as well as antigen levels of uPA and PAI-1 were low in benign ovarian tumors but increased significantly from LMP tumors to advanced ovarian cancers. The highest values of all of the proteolytic factors were detected in omentum metastases. Active MMP-2 enzyme (62 kDa) was detected only in ovarian cancer (66%) and corresponding metastases (93%) but never in benign or LMP tumors. The activation rate of MMP-2 to its active isoform was higher in the metastases. Comparing both proteolytic systems, higher PAI-1 concentrations were consistently found in cancers with high pro-MMP-9 expression. These data indicate that members of the plasminogen activator system, as well as the metalloproteinases MMP-2/9, increase with growing malignant potential of ovarian tumors. These findings are of particular relevance to the development of protease inhibitors as new therapeutic approaches in ovarian cancer.

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