Background: Cathepsin B and L (CATB, CATL), urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA) and its inhibitor PAI-1 play an important role in colorectal cancer invasion. The tumor marker utility and prognostic relevance of these proteases have not been evaluated in the same experimental setting and compared with that of CEA and CA-19-9.
Methods: Protease, CEA and CA 19-9 serum or plasma levels were determined in 56 patients with colorectal cancer, 25 patients with ulcerative colitis, 26 patients with colorectal adenomas and 35 tumor-free control patients. Protease, CEA, CA 19-9 levels have been determined by ELISA and electrochemiluminescence immunoassay, respectively; their sensitivity, specificity, diagnostic accuracy have been calculated and correlated with clinicopathological staging.
Results: The protease antigen levels were significantly higher in colorectal cancer compared with other groups. Sensitivity of PAI-1 (94%), CATB (82%), uPA (69%), CATL (41%) were higher than those of CEA or CA 19-9 (30% and 18%, respectively). PAI-1, CATB and uPA demonstrated a better accuracy than CEA or CA 19-9. A combination of PAI-1 with CATB or uPA exhibited the highest sensitivity value (98%). High CATB, PAI-1, CEA and CA 19-9 levels correlated with advanced Dukes stages. CATB (P = 0.0004), CATL (P = 0.02), PAI-1 (P = 0.01) and CA 19-9 (P = 0.004) had a significant prognostic impact. PAI-1 (P = 0.001), CATB (P = 0.04) and CA 19-9 (P = 0.02) proved as independent prognostic variables.
Conclusion: At the time of clinical detection proteases are more sensitive indicators for colorectal cancer than the commonly used tumor markers. Determinations of CATB, CATL and PAI-1 have a major prognostic impact in patients with colorectal cancer.