Role of urokinase (uPA) and its receptor (uPAR) in invasion and metastasis of hormone-dependent malignancies

Int J Oncol. 1998 Apr;12(4):911-20. doi: 10.3892/ijo.12.4.911.


Despite our recent advances in characterizing the molecular basis of breast and prostate cancer and their early detection with the aid of new imaging and diagnostic techniques, these cancers continue to be the leading causes of cancer-related deaths. This limited success in achieving our ultimate goal of cancer control is due to our inability to block the production of various factors produced in the later stages of these cancers that cause this high rate of mortality. A key requirement in the complex process of tumor invasion is the ability of tumor cells to produce and recruit growth factors and proteolytic enzymes within the tumor cell environment to promote neovascularization, tumor growth and promote extracellular matrix (ECM) degradation to facilitate tumor metastasis. One such protease, urokinase (uPA), has been strongly implicated in the progression of several malignancies including breast and prostate cancer. Along with uPA, its cell surface receptor (uPAR) is also believed to be involved due to its ability to recruit uPA within the tumor cell environment. In recent years, novel in vivo models of breast and prostate cancer have been developed which have clearly demonstrated the significance of uPA and uPAR in the invasion and metastases of these hormone-dependent cancers. The availability of these in vivo models has now permitted us to evaluate the molecular, chemical and immunotherapeutic strategies targeted against the uPA/uPAR system. This review describes the mechanism of uPA actions in tumor progression and analyses the usefulness of these in vivo models to authenticate uPA/uPAR as a therapeutic target and evaluates the benefits of blocking uPA/uPAR interactions alone or in combination with currently available treatment modalities against this cancer. Based on these results, there is an urgent need to develop and optimize strategies which will ultimately allow us to control the progression of these malignancies and enhance our ability to effectively manage these patients.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Breast Neoplasms / therapy
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Male
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis*
  • Neoplasms, Hormone-Dependent / pathology*
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / pathology
  • Prostatic Neoplasms / therapy
  • Receptors, Cell Surface / physiology*
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator / physiology*


  • PLAUR protein, human
  • Receptors, Cell Surface
  • Receptors, Urokinase Plasminogen Activator
  • Urokinase-Type Plasminogen Activator