Matrix metalloproteinases in cancer: their value as diagnostic and prognostic markers and therapeutic targets

Tumour Biol. 2013 Aug;34(4):2041-51. doi: 10.1007/s13277-013-0842-8. Epub 2013 May 17.


Biomarkers are used as tools in cancer diagnostics and in treatment stratification. In most cancers, there are increased levels of one or several members of the matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs). This is a family of proteolytic enzymes that are involved in many phases of cancer progression, including angiogenesis, invasiveness, and metastasis. It has therefore been expected that MMPs could serve as both diagnostic and prognostic markers in cancer patients, but despite a huge number of studies, it has been difficult to establish MMPs as cancer biomarkers. In the present paper, we assess some of the challenges associated with MMP research as well as putative reasons for the conflicting data on the value of these enzymes as diagnostic and prognostic markers in cancer patients. We also review the prognostic value of a number of MMPs in patients with lung, colorectal, breast, and prostate cancers. The review also discusses MMPs as potential target molecules for therapeutic agents and new strategies for development of such drugs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins / metabolism
  • Humans
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases / metabolism*
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / diagnosis
  • Neoplasms / enzymology*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Extracellular Matrix Proteins
  • Matrix Metalloproteinases