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Int J Cancer. 2002 Apr 1;98(4):582-9.

Extracellular matrix building marked by the N-terminal propeptide of procollagen type I reflect aggressiveness of recurrent breast cancer.

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Department of Oncology, University Hospital of Herlev, Copenhagen, Denmark.


The purpose of our study was to examine the association between extracellular matrix homeostasis and aggressive breast cancer as reflected by the synthesis of type I collagen marked by circulating concentration of the aminoterminal propeptide of type I procollagen (PINP). Pre-therapeutic serum PINP concentrations were measured in 154 healthy women and 100 patients referred with their first metastatic manifestation of breast cancer and correlated to the metastatic pattern, response to therapy, time to progression and survival with a minimal follow-up of 5 years. Fifty-four percent of the patients had serum PINP concentrations greater than the 95th percentile of the healthy controls and 38% were high PINP level patients with values clearly outside normal range (>125 ng/ml). Patients with high PINP levels were more sick (p = 0.002), had a higher tumor burden (p = 0.013) and revealed a lower responsiveness to anthracycline-based therapy (p = 0.0002) as well as an accelerated time to disease progression (p = 0.00001) and death (p = 0.0006). Median survival in the high serum PINP level group was less than half of that in the group with low PINP level (14.5 vs. 32 months). The lowest PINP levels were seen when the cancer was restricted to the lymph node and skin and increasing PINP levels were found if the cancer had spread to the lungs, the bones, the bone marrow and the liver. High PINP level at recurrence and lack of estrogen receptors (ER) independently reflected aggressive tumor behavior after recurrence with an equal great impact on time to progression and survival. Patients with a high PINP level and primarily ER-negative tumors survived a median of only 6 months with no one alive after 22 months. By contrast patients with a low PINP level and ER-positive tumors had a median survival of 37 months and 23% were still alive after 5 years. Aggressive breast cancer induces a strong fibroproliferative response with synthesis of type I collagen. Serum PINP levels may be a diagnostic and prognostic tool that indicate breast cancer activity, aggressiveness, expansion and metastasis and a predictor of outcome after anthracycline-based chemotherapy.

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