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Invest New Drugs. 1999;17(4):387-99.

Matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors: applications in oncology.

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Department of Medical Oncology, Guy's Hospital, London, United Kingdom.


Matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) are a group of zinc dependent enzymes which include the interstitial collagenases, stromelysins, gelatinases and membrane-type metalloproteinases. They are involved in the remodelling and turnover of the extracellular matrix proteins. They play a role in wound healing and the pathogenesis of arthritis. In malignancies they play a role in tumor invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. A number of synthetic matrix metalloproteinase inhibitors (MMPIs) have been developed for clinical use. In preclinical tumor models they have shown promising activity in achieving inhibition of MMPs and reducing tumor growth and metastatic spread. Some have also shown additive or synergistic effects with cytotoxic agents. Phase I and II studies in human subjects have defined the main side effects of these agents as being musculoskeletal pains or arthralgias. As they are cytostatic agents rather than cytotoxic in activity conventional measurements of radiological response for assessment are not applicable in trials. Biological activity has been demonstrated in certain cancers by the effects on levels of tumor markers as surrogate markers of tumor response and also by a fibrotic stromal reaction seen in tumor tissue. Newer agents have been developed with selective inhibition of certain MMPs in an attempt to reduce the side effects. A number of phase III human clinical trials evaluating MMPs are being carried out at present but only one has been formally reported so far. This study suggested that marimastat had no survival advantage when compared to chemotherapy with gemcitabine in advanced pancreatic carcinoma. Current trials are assessing efficacy of MMPIs in maintenance of remission after other modalities of therapy or in combination with cytotoxic agents. MMPs have also been demonstrated to play an important role in the articular cartilage destruction seen in both rheumatoid arthritis and osteoarthritis. The use of MMPIs in both ex vivo and in vivo models have shown promising results and trials are in process to assess their potential role in the control of articular destruction. The true therapeutic role of MMPIs await the results of these randomized studies.

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