• circulating 92-kilodalton (kDa) matrix metalloproteinase (MMP);
  • MMP-9;
  • tumor marker;
  • laryngeal carcinoma;
  • oropharyngeal carcinoma



Cancer lethality is usually the result of local invasion and metastasis of neoplastic cells from the primary tumor. Because of their ability to degrade extracellular matrix components (EMC), matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have been implicated in the breakdown of basement membranes and underlying stroma, thereby facilitating tumor growth and invasion.


The authors quantitated, by gelatin zymography and densitometric analysis, MMP activity in the euglobulin plasma fraction of 50 healthy controls and 91 head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) patients (51 from the larynx and 40 from the oropharynx).


The median value for 92-kilodalton (kD) MMP (MMP-9) activity was increased significantly in laryngeal (Md 2.1 arbitrary units (AU)/mL plasma; range, 0.2–6.4) and oropharyngeal patients (Md 2.08 AU/mL; range, 0.0–5.0) with respect to the controls (Md 0.48 AU/mL; range, 0.0–1.8). Both groups of cancer patients showed a similar behavior. Multivariate analysis indicated that circulating 92-kD MMP activity was not predicted by the clinical-pathologic parameters such as tumor stage, histologic grade, and metastatic lymph nodes. There was no association between high levels of MMP-9 activity and either cigarette smoking or alcohol consumption, major risk factors for developing HNSCC.


The authors found a significant increase of MMP-9 plasma activity both in laryngeal and oropharyngeal squamous cell carcinoma patients as compared with healthy controls. Further studies are necessary to establish its usefulness in the clinical management of these patients. Cancer 2002;94:1483–91. © 2002 American Cancer Society.

DOI 10.1002/cncr.10356