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BMC Cancer. 2010 Apr 28;10:164. doi: 10.1186/1471-2407-10-164.

Increased Rac1 activity and Pak1 overexpression are associated with lymphovascular invasion and lymph node metastasis of upper urinary tract cancer.

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Department of Urology, Dokkyo Medical University, Mibu, Tochigi, Japan.



Lymphovascular invasion (LVI) and lymph node metastasis are conventional pathological factors associated with an unfavorable prognosis of urothelial carcinoma of the upper urinary tract (UC-UUT), but little is known about the molecular mechanisms underlying LVI and nodal metastasis in this disease. Rac1 small GTPase (Rac1) is essential for tumor metastasis. Activated GTP-bound Rac1 (Rac1 activity) plays a key role in activating downstream effectors known as Pak (21-activated kinase), which are key regulators of cytoskeletal remolding, cell motility, and cell proliferation, and thus have a role in both carcinogenesis and tumor invasion.


We analyzed Rac1 activity and Pak1 protein expression in matched sets of tumor tissue, non-tumor tissue, and metastatic lymph node tissue obtained from the surgical specimens of 108 Japanese patients with UC-UUT.


Rac1 activity and Pak1 protein levels were higher in tumor tissue and metastatic lymph node tissue than in non-tumor tissue (both P < 0.0001). A high level of Rac1 activity and Pak1 protein expression in the primary tumor was related to poor differentiation (P < 0.05), muscle invasion (P < 0.01), LVI (P < 0.0001), and lymph node metastasis (P < 0.0001). Kaplan-Meier survival analysis showed that an increase of Rac1 activity and Pak1 protein was associated with a shorter disease-free survival time (P < 0.01) and shorter overall survival (P < 0.001). Cox proportional hazards analysis revealed that high Rac1 activity, Pak1 protein expression and LVI were independent prognostic factors for shorter overall and disease-free survival times (P < 0.01) on univariate analysis, although only Pak1 and LVI had an influence (P < 0.05) according to multivariate analysis.


These findings suggest that Rac1 activity and Pak1 are involved in LVI and lymph node metastasis of UC-UUT, and may be prognostic markers for this disease.

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