Pancreatic ductal adenocarcinoma has a median survival of less than 6 months from diagnosis. This is due to the difficulty in early diagnosis, the aggressive biological behaviour of the tumour and a lack of effective therapies for advanced disease. Mammalian heparanase is a heparan-sulphate proteoglycan cleaving enzyme. It helps to degrade the extracellular matrix and basement membranes and is involved in angiogenesis. Degradation of extracellular matrix and basement membranes as well as angiogenesis are key conditions for tumour cell spreading. Therefore, we have analysed the expression of heparanase in human pancreatic cancer tissue and cell lines. Heparanase is expressed in cell lines derived from primary tumours as well as from metastatic sites. By immunohistochemical analysis, it is preferentially expressed at the invading edge of a tumour at both metastatic and primary tumour sites. There is a trend towards heparanase expression in metastasising tumours as compared to locally growing tumours. Postoperative survival correlates inversely with heparanase expression of the tumour reflected by a median survival of 34 and 17 month for heparanase negative and positive tumours, respectively. Our results suggest, that heparanase promotes cancer cell invasion in pancreatic carcinoma and could be used as a prognostic indicator for postoperative survival of patients.
Copyright 2002 Cancer Research UK