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Int J Cancer. 2002 Nov 10;102(2):192-7.

Hyaluronidase reduces human breast cancer xenografts in SCID mice.

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Department of Pathology, School of Medicine, University of California San Francisco, San Francisco, CA 94143-0511, USA.


A hyaluronan-rich environment often correlate with tumor progression. and may be one mechanism for the invasive behavior of malignancies. Eradication of hyaluronan by hyaluronidase administration could reduce tumor aggressiveness and would provide, therefore, a new anti-cancer strategy. Hyaluronan interaction with its CD44 receptor and the resulting signal transduction events may be among the mechanisms for hyaluronan-associated cancer progression. We have shown previously that hyaluronidase treatment of breast cancer cells in vitro not only eradicates hyaluronan but also modifies expression of CD44 variant exons of tumor cells. We now determine if such effects occur in vivo and if it is accompanied by tumor regression. SCID mice bearing xenografts of human breast carcinomas were given intravenous hyaluronidase. Tumor volumes decreased 50% in 4 days. Tumor sections showed decreased hyaluronan. Intensity of staining for CD44s was not affected, whereas staining for specific CD44 variant exon isoforms was greatly reduced in residual tumors. Necrosis was not evident. Hyaluronidase, used previously as an adjunct in cancer treatment, presumably to enhance penetration of chemotherapeutic drugs, may itself have intrinsic anti-cancer activity. Removing peritumor hyaluronan appears to cause an irreversible change in tumor metabolism. Continuous hyaluronan binding to CD44 variant exon isoforms may also be required to stabilize inherently unstable isoforms that participate perhaps in tumor progression. Further investigation is required to confirm a cause and effect relationship between loss of hyaluronan, changes in CD44 variant exon expression and tumor reduction. If confirmed, hyaluronidase may provide a new class of anti-cancer therapeutics and one without toxic side effects.

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