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Clin Cancer Res. 1995 Jul;1(7):741-6.

Prognostic value of the cysteine proteases cathepsins B and cathepsin L in human breast cancer.

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  • 1Frauenklinik, Institut für Medizinische Statistik und Epidemiologie, der Technischen Universität München, Klinikum rechts der Isar, Ismaninger Strasse 22, 81675 Munich, Germany.


The lysosomal cysteine proteases cathepsin B and cathepsin L have been implicated in tumor spread and metastasis. To evaluate the prognostic impact of these proteases for disease-free survival and overall survival in breast cancer, the antigen content of cathepsin B and cathepsin L was determined using ELISA in tumor cytosol fractions of 167 breast cancer patients and in cytosols of 29 benign breast tissue specimens. Median values of 856 ng versus 76 ng cathepsin B/mg protein and of 428 ng versus 56 ng cathepsin L/mg protein were found in tumor versus benign cytosol fractions. A positive correlation between cathepsin B and cathepsin L (r = 0.32, P = 0.0000, Spearman test) was found. Cathepsin L was inversely correlated to hormone receptor status (P = 0.0014, Mann-Whitney U test) and to the presence of tumor necrosis (P = 0.009, Mann-Whitney U test). There were no correlations of cathepsin B or cathepsin L to tumor size, axillary lymph node status, age, menopausal status, tumor grading, and vessel invasion. To perform univariate analyses of disease-free survival, optimal cutoff points were determined by isotonic regression and classification and regression trees analysis. Patients with a high content of cathepsin B (>1092 ng/mg protein) or cathepsin L (>376 ng/mg protein) in their primary tumors had a statistically significantly higher risk of recurrence than patients with a low content of cathepsin B or cathepsin L (5-year disease-free survival: cathepsin B, 70% versus 52%, P = 0.04; cathepsin L, 83% versus 52%, P = 0.0002). Median follow-up was 39 (range, 6-73) months. Multivariate analysis for disease-free survival showed that cathepsin L is a strong and independent prognostic factor with a prognostic impact comparable to that of axillary lymph node status and grading. We conclude that both cathepsin B and cathepsin L may serve as prognostic factors for tumor recurrence in human breast cancer. These data underline the significance of tumor-associated proteolysis for invasion and metastasis.

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