Breast cancer confined within the lactiferous duct or lobule, without invading the stroma, is called ductal carcinoma in situ (DCIS), whereas breast cancer that has invaded the stroma through the basal membrane is called invasive cancer. Heparanase, an endo-beta-D-glucuronidase that specifically degrades heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) in the extracellular matrix (ECM), plays an important role when breast cancer cells breach the basal membrane. Recently, we have reported that heparanase is involved in angiogenesis through direct induction of cyclo-oxygenase-2 (COX-2). COX-2 induces vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) and is thus involved in neovascularization. The present study was undertaken to analyze surgically resected breast cancer specimens for heparanase and COX-2 expression, using specimens from 59 patients with invasive cancer and 85 patients with DCIS (including 41 cases of DCIS adjacent to invasive cancer). This study yielded the following results: a) the distribution of heparanase within tumor tissue was identical to that of COX-2; b) heparanase expression was more frequent in invasive cancer than in non-invasive cancer; c) a close positive correlation was noted between heparanase and COX-2 expression (this correlation was particularly strong in cases of invasive cancer); and d) COX-2 expression was always seen in cases positive for heparanase expression. Our results indicate that heparanase expression increases during the progression of breast cancer into invasive cancer, and that this change is accompanied by increased COX-2 expression. They also suggest that heparanase may play a novel role for COX-2 mediated tumor angiogenesis in breast-cancer progression.