Heparanase-1 expression is associated with the metastatic potential of breast cancer

Surgery. 2002 Aug;132(2):326-33. doi: 10.1067/msy.2002.125719.


Background: Metastasis of malignant breast cells is in part mediated through degradation of the extra-cellular matrix by proteolysis, enabling malignant cells to migrate through the surrounding stroma. Heparanase-1 (HPR1) is an endoglycosidase that specifically degrades the heparan sulfate (HS) moiety of proteoglycans, a component of the extracellular matrix and basement membrane.

Methods: Fifty-one primary breast tumors, 13 lymph node metastases, 4 ductal carcinoma in situ, 7 benign, and 5 normal specimens were examined for HPR1 expression using immunohistochemical staining. The functional role of HPR1 expression was determined by examining HS deposition using immunofluorescence staining.

Results: Sixteen of 30 breast carcinomas (53%) with sentinel node metastasis expressed HPR1. In contrast, only 5 of 21 nonmetastatic primary breast carcinomas (23%) were HPR1 positive. Eighteen of 30 breast carcinomas between 1 and 5 cm expressed HPR1, compared with 3 of 21 HPR1-positive specimens in tumors < or =1 cm. Statistical analysis revealed that HPR1 expression was associated with breast tumor metastases (P =.04) and primary tumors between 1 and 5 cm (P =.002). Ninety percent of HPR1-positive tumors lacked HS deposition, suggesting an inverse correlation between HPR1 expression and HS deposition.

Conclusions: HPR1 expression correlates with the lack of HS deposition and with the metastatic potential of breast cancers. The frequency of HPR1 is significantly higher in breast tumors between 1 and 5 cm than in tumors < or =1 cm.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Breast Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Breast Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Lymphatic Metastasis / pathology
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases / analysis
  • Polysaccharide-Lyases / biosynthesis*
  • Sentinel Lymph Node Biopsy


  • Polysaccharide-Lyases
  • heparatinase I