Expression of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) plays an essential role in tumor metastasis and invasion through the degradation of extracellular matrix (ECM). MT1-MMP (membrane type 1 matrix metalloproteinase), a membrane-type MMP, is responsible for the activation of MMP2. In this study the significance of MT1-MMP expression in human breast tumors was investigated by immunocytochemical assay, and its correlation with clinicobiological features was analyzed. MT1-MMP expression was detected in tumor cells and/or stromal cells, and there was a strong correlation between the expressions of MT1-MMP in the two cell types. Out of 183 primary tumors, 103 (56.2%) showed positive staining of MT1-MMP in tumor cells. MT1-MMP expression showed no significant correlation with any of the clinicobiological parameters examined, including hormone receptor status and angiogenesis. In postoperative survival analysis, MT1-MMP expression itself was not a significant prognostic factor. However, in the particular subgroup with the accumulation of thymidine phosphorylase (TP)-positive stromal cells, which have been activated by various stimuli, such as cytokines and hypoxia, MT1-MMP expression had a significant prognostic value. These data suggested that MT1-MMP might function cooperatively with tumor-associated stromal cells for the progression of breast cancer.