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Pathol Oncol Res. 2001;7(1):14-23.

The role of matrix metalloproteinases in tumor angiogenesis and tumor metastasis.

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Medical College of Pennsylvania and Hahnemann University School of Medicine, Department of Pathology, Philadelphia 19102, USA.


Although a considerable amount of effort has been placed on discovering the etiologies of cancer, the majority of the basic cancer research existing today has focused on understanding the molecular mechanism of tumor formation and metastasis. Metastatic spread of tumors continues to be a major obstacle to successful treatment of malignant tumors. Approximately 30% of those patients diagnosed with a solid tumor have a clinically detectable metastasis and for the remaining 70%, metastases are continually being formed throughout the life of the tumor. Even after the tumor is excised, the threat of death is attributable to the metastasis that may occur through the remaining tumor cells. In addition, treating the metastasis often proves futile since metastasis often vary in size, composition, and anatomical location. New treatments blocking the formation of metastasis will provide greater chances of survival for cancer patients. One family of enzymes that has been shown over the years to play a role in tumor progression is the matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) family. The main function of MMPs, also known as matrixins, is degradation of the extracellular matrix physiologic function involving MMPs include wound healing, bone resorption and mammary involution. MMPs, however, also contribute to pathological conditions including rheumatoid arthritis, coronary artery disease, and cancer. Tumor cells are believed to utilize the matrix degrading capability of these enzymes to spread to distant sites. In addition, MMPs also are thought to promote the growth of these tumor cells once they have metastasized. This review will discuss the role of MMPs and their inhibitors in tumor invasion, angiogenesis and metastasis with special emphasis on the gelatinases, MMP-2 and MMP-9.

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