Breast cancer and metabolic syndrome linked through the plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 cycle

Bioessays. 2007 Oct;29(10):1029-38. doi: 10.1002/bies.20640.


Plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1) is a physiological inhibitor of urokinase (uPA), a serine protease known to promote cell migration and invasion. Intuitively, increased levels of PAI-1 should be beneficial in downregulating uPA activity, particularly in cancer. By contrast, in vivo, increased levels of PAI-1 are associated with a poor prognosis in breast cancer. This phenomenon is termed the "PAI-1 paradox". Many factors are responsible for the upregulation of PAI-1 in the tumor microenvironment. We hypothesize that there is a breast cancer predisposition to a more aggressive stage when PAI-1 is upregulated as a consequence of Metabolic Syndrome (MetS). MetS exerts a detrimental effect on the breast tumor microenvironment that supports cancer invasion. People with MetS have an increased risk of coronary heart disease, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and hyperinsulinemia. Recently, MetS has also been identified as a risk factor for breast cancer. We hypothesize the existence of the "PAI-1 cycle". Sustained by MetS, adipocytokines alter PAI-1 expression to promote angiogenesis, tumor-cell migration and procoagulant microparticle formation from endothelial cells, which generates thrombin and further propagates PAI-1 synthesis. All of these factors culminate in a chemotherapy-resistant breast tumor microenvironment. The PAI-1 cycle may partly explain the PAI-1 paradox. In this hypothesis paper, we will discuss further how MetS upregulates PAI-1 and how an increased level of PAI-1 can be linked to a poor prognosis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Apoptosis
  • Breast Neoplasms / diagnosis*
  • Breast Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Adhesion
  • Cell Proliferation
  • Female
  • Gene Expression Profiling
  • Humans
  • Metabolic Syndrome / metabolism*
  • Models, Biological*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1 / metabolism*
  • Prognosis
  • Risk Factors
  • Up-Regulation
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / antagonists & inhibitors


  • Plasminogen Activator Inhibitor 1
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator