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Biochim Biophys Acta. 2004 Dec 17;1705(2):69-89.

The role of gelatinases in colorectal cancer progression and metastasis.

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  • 1Academic Medical Center, University of Amsterdam, Department of Cell Biology and Histology, P.O. Box 22700, 1100 DE Amsterdam, The Netherlands.


Various proteases are involved in cancer progression and metastasis. In particular, gelatinases, matrix metalloproteinase-2 (MMP-2) and MMP-9, have been implicated to play a role in colon cancer progression and metastasis in animal models and patients. In the present review, the clinical relevance and the prognostic value of messenger ribonucleic acid (mRNA) and protein expression and proenzyme activation of MMP-2 and MMP-9 are evaluated in relation to colorectal cancer. Expression of tissue inhibitors of MMPs (TIMPs) in relation with MMP expression in cancer tissues and the relevance of detection of plasma or serum levels of MMP-2 and/or MMP-9 and TIMPs for prognosis are also discussed. Furthermore, involvement of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in experimental models of colorectal cancer is reviewed. In vitro studies have suggested that gelatinase is expressed in cancer cells but animal models indicated that gelatinase expression in non-cancer cells in tumors contributes to cancer progression. In fact, interactions between cancer cells and host tissues have been shown to modulate gelatinase expression in host cells. Inhibition of gelatinases by synthetic MMP inhibitors has been considered to be an attractive approach to block cancer progression. However, despite promising results in animal models, clinical trials with MMP inhibitors have been disappointing so far. To obtain more insight in the (patho)physiological functions of gelatinases, regulation of MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression is discussed. Mitogen activated protein kinase (MAPK) signalling has been shown to be involved in regulation of gelatinase expression in both cancer cells and non-cancer cells. Expression can be triggered by a variety of stimuli including growth factors, cytokines and extracellular matrix (ECM) components. On the other hand, MMP-2 and MMP-9 activity regulates bioavailability and activity of growth factors and cytokines, affects the immune response and is involved in angiogenesis. Because of the multifunctionality of gelatinases, it is unpredictable at what stage of cancer development and in which processes gelatinase activity is involved. Therefore, it is concluded that the use of MMP inhibitors to treat cancer should be considered carefully.

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