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Keywords:

  • extracellular signal-regulated kinase;
  • heparan sulfate;
  • heparanase;
  • heparin mimics;
  • hepatocyte growth factor;
  • syndecan-1;
  • vascular endothelial growth factor

Heparanase is an endoglucuronidase that cleaves heparan sulfate chains of proteoglycans. In many malignancies, high heparanase expression and activity correlate with an aggressive tumour phenotype. A major consequence of heparanase action in cancer is a robust up-regulation of growth factor expression and increased shedding of syndecan-1 (a transmembrane heparan sulfate proteoglycan). Substantial evidence indicates that heparanase and syndecan-1 work together to drive growth factor signalling and regulate cell behaviours that enhance tumour growth, dissemination, angiogenesis and osteolysis. Preclinical and clinical studies have demonstrated that therapies targeting the heparanase/syndecan-1 axis hold promise for blocking the aggressive behaviour of cancer.