Extracellular proteolysis mediates tissue homeostasis. In cancer, altered proteolysis leads to unregulated tumor growth, tissue remodeling, inflammation, tissue invasion, and metastasis. The matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) represent the most prominent family of proteinases associated with tumorigenesis. Recent technological developments have markedly advanced our understanding of MMPs as modulators of the tumor microenvironment. In addition to their role in extracellular matrix turnover and cancer cell migration, MMPs regulate signaling pathways that control cell growth, inflammation, or angiogenesis and may even work in a nonproteolytic manner. These aspects of MMP function are reorienting our approaches to cancer therapy.
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