Use of plasma MMP-2 and MMP-9 levels as a surrogate for tumour expression in colorectal cancer patients

Int J Cancer. 2003 Nov 20;107(4):541-50. doi: 10.1002/ijc.11436.


Matrix metalloproteinases, and notably the gelatinases MMP-2 and MMP-9, have important roles in tumour invasion, metastasis and angiogenesis. Our study investigates the distribution of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in colorectal cancer, the correlation with plasma levels, changes following surgical resection and whether plasma levels reflect clinical staging and disease course. MMP-2 and MMP-9 expression in 48 colorectal tumours and 13 adenomatous polyps was analysed by RT-PCR, immunohistochemistry, and quantified by ELISA of tumour lysates. Concentrations of MMP-2 and MMP-9 in plasma samples from these patients and 36 other patients who underwent curative resections were measured by ELISA prior to and 6-12 months after surgery. MMP-2 expression was significantly increased in colorectal cancer tissues compared to matched normal colon as measured by ELISA. Active MMP-2 was localised by immunohistochemistry to regions where tumour cells invaded the muscularis with little staining in more superficial areas. Plasma MMP-2 levels were also significantly elevated in patients with colorectal cancer, with significant reductions following curative resections at all stages. Similarly, MMP-9 expression was significantly increased in colorectal cancer tissues, predominantly in the tumour stroma. Plasma levels of MMP-9 were significantly elevated at all stages in colorectal cancer patients and a significant reduction was seen following curative resections. With both MMP-2 and MMP-9, the strongest correlation with clinical staging in colorectal cancer was represented by the total plasma concentration of the enzymes, both falling to within the normal range following curative surgery. Plasma levels of these enzymes may therefore have potential as a noninvasive indicator of invasion or metastasis in colorectal cancer or as a marker of disease status during follow-up.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adenomatous Polyps / metabolism
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / pathology
  • Colorectal Neoplasms / surgery
  • DNA Primers / chemistry
  • Disease Progression
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / blood*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / genetics
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / blood*
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / genetics
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Postoperative Care
  • Preoperative Care
  • RNA, Messenger / metabolism
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • DNA Primers
  • RNA, Messenger
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9