Background Cathepsin K (CTSK), a cysteine protease with strong collagenolytic and elastolytic properties involved in extracellular matrix turnover, may be produced by neoplastic cells as well as stromal macrophages and fibroblasts. Its expression is suggested as associated with increased invasive and metastatic potential.
Objectives The aim of this study is to examine stromal expression of cathepsin K in skin tumors.
Methods A series of 13 normal skin and 109 skin tumours, including 51 benign and 58 malignant epidermal tumours were tested for CTSK and Ki-67 expression by immunohistochemical analysis.
Results Stromal CTSK expression and the tumoral Ki-67 labelling index were significantly higher in invasive squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) than in other epidermal tumours.
Conclusion Cathepsin K-positive stromal fibroblasts may play a crucial role in SCC progression by promoting extracellular matrix degradation, thereby facilitating SCC growth and invasion into surrounding tissue and vasculature. CTSK inhibitors may be a potential novel therapeutic option to decrease SCC progression.