Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 in breast cancer

    1. N Brünner
    1. The Royal Veterinary and Agricultural University, Department of Veterinary Pathobiology, Ridebanevej 9, DK-1870 Frederiksberg C, Denmark
    2. 1Hvidovre Hospital, Department of Surgical Gastroenterology, DK-2650 Hvidovre, Denmark
    3. 2Rigshospitalet, Department of Oncology, Blegdamsvej 9, DK-2100 Copenhagen, Denmark
    1. (Requests for offprints should be addressed to SO Wurtz; Email: suw{at}kvl.dk)


    Whether patients diagnosed with primary breast cancer are offered adjuvant systemic therapy following surgical removal of the tumor is based on prognosis. Prognosis is estimated in every patient using established prognostic variables. Unfortunately, when using the currently available prognostic parameters a significant proportion of patients are over-treated. Thus, in order to improve stratification of breast cancer patients, additional prognostic factors need to be identified. Tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinases-1 (TIMP-1) is one of the promising candidates for new prognostic markers in breast cancer, as a number of studies have demonstrated an association between high tumor-tissue levels of TIMP-1 mRNA as well as TIMP-1 protein and a poor prognosis of breast cancer patients. TIMP-1 is a member of the TIMP family, currently comprising four members (TIMP-1–4), and its main function is inhibition of the activity of various matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). The association between high levels of protease inhibitor and poor prognosis may be somewhat surprising, as proteolytic activity plays a pivotal role in cancer cell invasion and metastasis. However, the recent discovery of other biological functions of TIMP-1 such as growth-stimulating functions, as well as anti-apoptotic and pro-angiogenetic effects, may in part explain this paradox. The purpose of this review is to give an update on the current status of TIMP-1 in breast cancer, emphasizing the prognostic utility of the inhibitor. In addition, the suggested tumor-stimulatory roles of TIMP-1 will be outlined.

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