Matrix metalloproteinases and tumor metastasis

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 2006 Mar;25(1):9-34. doi: 10.1007/s10555-006-7886-9.


Functions of individual matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) differentially expressed by tumor cells and stromal cells, are finely regulated by their spatial as well as temporal interactions with distinct cellular and extracellular components of the tumor microenvironment and also distant pre-metastatic sites. Certain aspects of MMP involvement in tumor metastasis such as tumor-induced angiogenesis, tumor invasion, and establishment of metastatic foci at the secondary site, have received extensive attention that resulted in an overwhelming amount of experimental and observational data in favor of critical roles of MMPs in these processes. In particular, dependency of tumor angiogenesis on the activity of MMPs, especially that of MMP-9, renders this step possibly the most effective target of synthetic MMP inhibitors. MMP functioning in other stages of metastasis, including the escape of individual tumor cells from the primary tumor, their intravasation, survival in circulation, and extravasation at the secondary site, have not yet received enough consideration, resulting in insufficient or controversial data. The major pieces of evidence that are most compelling and clearly determine the role and involvement of MMPs in the metastatic cascade are provided by molecular genetic studies employing knock-out or transgenic animals and tumor cell lines, modified to overexpress or downregulate a specific MMP. Findings from all of these studies implicate different functional mechanisms for both tumor and stromal MMPs during distinct steps of the metastatic cascade and indicate that MMPs can exhibit pro-metastatic as well as anti-metastatic roles depending on their nature and the experimental setting. This dual function of individual MMPs in metastasis has become a major focus of this review.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Survival
  • Disease Progression
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9 / physiology
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / physiology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Knockout
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplastic Cells, Circulating
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / enzymology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism


  • Matrix Metalloproteinase Inhibitors
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 9