Urokinase plasminogen activator: a prognostic marker in multiple types of cancer

J Surg Oncol. 1999 Jun;71(2):130-5. doi: 10.1002/(sici)1096-9098(199906)71:2<130::aid-jso14>3.0.co;2-9.


Urokinase plasminogen activator (uPA) is a serine protease causally involved in cancer invasion and metastasis. Consistent with its role in cancer spread, uPA has been shown to be a prognostic marker in a variety of malignancies, especially breast cancer. Approximately 20 different groups have shown that high levels of uPA in breast tumor tissue predict poor outcome. As a prognostic marker in breast cancer, uPA provides information that is independent of traditionally used factors such as tumor size, tumor grade, axillary node status and estrogen receptor status. Furthermore, uPA is prognostic in node-negative patients, and a clinical trial is currently under way to assess whether uPA and its inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1, can differentiate between the majority of node-negative breast cancer patients who are cured by surgery from the minority who might benefit from adjuvant therapy. uPA is also prognostic in other malignancies, such as gastric, colorectal, esophageal, renal, endometrial, and ovarian cancers. uPA may thus be a prognostic indicator for multiple types of adenocarcinoma.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Breast Neoplasms / mortality
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Disease-Free Survival
  • Female
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / mortality
  • Gastrointestinal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Humans
  • Lymph Nodes / pathology
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / mortality
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prognosis
  • Survival Rate
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / metabolism*


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator