Expression of carboxypeptidase E (CPE), a prohormone processing enzyme in different cancer types, was analyzed from data in the GEO profile database (http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/geo/) and experimentally in pheochromocytomas. Analysis of microarray data demonstrated that significantly elevated levels of CPE mRNA was found in many metastatic non-endocrine cancers: cervical, colon rectal, renal cancers, Ewing sarcomas (bone cancer), and various types of astrocytomas and oligodendrogliomas, whereas expression of CPE mRNA was virtually absent in their respective counterpart normal tissues. Moreover, there was higher CPE mRNA expression in cells from the metastatic tumor compared to those from the primary tumor in colorectal cancer. Elevated CPE mRNA expression was found in neuroendocrine tumors in lung and pituitary adenomas, although the significance is unclear since endocrine and neuroendocrine cells normally express CPE. However, studies of neuroendocrine tumors, pheochromocytomas, revealed expression of not only wild-type CPE, but a variant which was correlated with tumor behavior. Extremely high CPE mRNA copy numbers of the variant were found in very large or invasive tumors, both of which usually indicate poor prognosis. Thus, collectively the data suggest that CPE may play a role in promoting tumor growth and invasion. CPE could potentially serve as a diagnostic and prognostic biomarker for metastasis in different cancer types.