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IUBMB Life. 2006 Jan;58(1):25-9.

Maspin and tumor metastasis.

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Department of Cell Biology, The Scripps Research Institute, La Jolla, California 92037, USA.


For most cancer cell types, the acquisition of metastatic activity leads to clinically incurable disease. Improvements in surgery and radiotherapy, and the development of new chemotherapeutic agents or their use in new combinations, have, so far, only incrementally improved patient survival. Despite the obvious importance of metastasis, the process remains incompletely characterized at the molecular and biochemical levels. Tumor metastasis is a complex process and requires multiple cellular functions over time. From cellular invasion, extravasation from the primary tumor, intravasation to the secondary organs, to successful colonization, tumor cells utilize many cellular or biochemical mechanisms to complete the metastatic spread. During the process of metastasis, there are consistent changes in gene expression. Studies of genes that are reduced or silenced have yielded surprising insights into in vivo mechanisms of regulating tumor metastasis. This review describes a tumor suppressor gene, Maspin, which is often silenced in cancer cells and exhibits suppressing activity against tumor growth and metastasis. Maspin has been shown to be involved in processes that are important to both tumor growth and metastasis such as cell invasion, angiogenesis, and more recently apoptosis. Hence, many efforts have been devoted to deciphering the molecular mechanism of maspin. While some insights have come from the protease inhibitory effect of maspin, more perceptive results on how maspin may function in suppressing tumor metastasis have come from studies of gene manipulation, protein interactions and global protein profiling.

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