Urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) and its receptor (uPAR), plasminogen (Plg), and plasminogen activator inhibitors-1 and -2 (PAI-1 and PAI-2) have been observed in many cancers and may contribute to progression and metastasis. In our study, we examined the expression of the 5 proteins by immunohistochemistry in 59 consecutive primary colorectal cancers (CRC) and correlated the protein expression with patient outcome. In addition, we determined the effect of down-regulation of uPAR on the invasive/metastatic capability of CRC cells, by measuring antisense-uPAR transfected HCT116 and control cell lines, in terms of uPAR expression, uPA-binding activity, invasiveness through Matrigel in vitro and metastasis after cecal orthotopic implantation in nude mice in vivo. We found that higher expression of uPA or uPAR in primary tumor tissues was positively correlated with distant metastasis of CRC (Mann-Whitney, p < 0.02) and negatively correlated with both patient overall survival (OS) and cancer-specific survival (CSS; Cox model, p < 0.04). The prognostic value of uPA and uPAR for both OS and CSS was independent of other variables (multivariate Cox model, p < 0. 007). Antisense-uPAR transfected HCT116 cells, which expressed significantly lower levels of total cellular and cell surface uPAR proteins and uPA-binding activity compared with either wild-type or cells transfected with vector alone (Bonferroni, p < 0.05/3), consistently showed decreased invasiveness through Matrigel (Bonferroni, p < 0.05/3) and decreased metastasis formation in nude mice (Fisher, p < 0.05). Our data suggest that uPAR and uPA are independent prognostic factors in CRC; anti-uPAR treatment, which affects both uPAR and uPA levels, may have potential for new treatment of the disease.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.