Extensive work on the mechanisms of tumor invasion and metastasis has identified matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) as key players in the events that underlie tumor dissemination. Studies using natural and synthetic MMP inhibitors, as well as tumor cells transfected with cDNAs encoding the MMPs characterized thus far have provided compelling evidence that MMP activity can induce or enhance tumor survival, invasion and metastasis. Because of the ability of MMPs to degrade extracellular matrix (ECM) proteins, the principal mechanism whereby MMPs promote tumor development has been thought to be the proteolytic breakdown of tissue barriers to invasion and the associated facilitation of circulating tumor cell extravasation. However, recent evidence stemming from the use of novel experimental approaches indicates that MMPs do not play a major role in the process of extravasation itself. Rather, they appear to promote intravasation (the process of penetrating the circulation following invasion of blood vessels) and regulate the relationship between tumor cells and host tissue stroma subsequent to extravasation. In addition, the discoveries that a growing number of proteolytically active MMPs may localize to the cell surface in association with adhesion receptors, and that MMP substrates include latent cytokines and growth factors, provide a new conceptual framework for the mechanisms whereby MMPs influence tumor behavior.
Copyright 2000 Academic Press.