Regulation of metastasis-related gene expression by p53: a potential clinical implication

Mol Carcinog. 1999 Jan;24(1):25-8.


Tumor metastasis is the main cause of mortality and treatment failure in cancer patients. It is a complex biological process regulated by alternations in expression of many genes. The p53 tumor suppressor gene has been shown to regulate expression of some metastasis-related genes. p53 transcriptionally activates expression of the genes encoding epidermal growth factor receptor, matrix metalloproteinase (MMP)-2, cathepsin D, and thrombospondin-1 but represses expression of the genes encoding basic fibroblast growth factor and multidrug resistance-1. Decreased expression of E-cadherin is associated with p53 alternations. Because these p53-regulatory genes either promote or inhibit tumor metastasis, the net effect of p53 expression on tumor metastasis depends upon the pattern of expression of these genes in a particular tumor. Because radiotherapy has been shown to increase tumor metastasis in both animal and human studies and because p53 is activated by radiation or DNA-damaging reagents, here we propose the working hypothesis that p53 may promote tumor metastasis upon induction by local radiotherapy or chemotherapy in some tumor types. For patients whose tumors contain wild-type p53, MMP inhibitors might be given with or before radiotherapy or chemotherapy to prevent an increase in tumor metastasis. Special caution should be taken with patients with cancers such as nasopharyngeal carcinoma in which p53 mutation is infrequent and radiotherapy is the main choice of treatment. To test our hypothesis, three studies are proposed and could serve as an initial step in understanding the complex biological process following radiation-induced p53 activation and its roles in regulation of tumor metastasis.

MeSH terms

  • Antineoplastic Agents / adverse effects
  • Cathepsin D / genetics
  • DNA Damage
  • DNA, Neoplasm / drug effects
  • DNA, Neoplasm / genetics
  • DNA, Neoplasm / radiation effects
  • ErbB Receptors / genetics
  • Gelatinases / genetics
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / drug effects
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic* / genetics
  • Genes, p53*
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • Metalloendopeptidases / genetics
  • Models, Biological
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / genetics*
  • Radiotherapy / adverse effects
  • Thrombospondin 1 / genetics
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53 / metabolism*


  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • DNA, Neoplasm
  • Thrombospondin 1
  • Tumor Suppressor Protein p53
  • ErbB Receptors
  • Cathepsin D
  • Gelatinases
  • Metalloendopeptidases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2