Recent studies suggest that HER-2/neu specifically promotes the invasive capacity of tumor cells by up-regulating secretion of the proteolytic enzyme, urokinase-type plasminogen activator (uPA), or its inhibitor, plasminogen activator inhibitor-1 (PAI-1), in colon and gastric cancer. It was the purpose of this study to: (a) evaluate the association between HER-2/neu and uPA and PAI-1 expression in a large primary breast cancer cohort; (b) perform the first multivariate analysis, including HER-2/neu, uPA, and PAI-1 in breast cancer; and (c) define the effect of HER-2/neu overexpression on uPA and PAI-1 expression in breast cancer cells.HER-2/neu, uPA, and PAI-1 were measured as continuous variables by ELISA in primary breast cancer tissue extracts from 587 patients with clinical follow-up and analyzed for correlations with clinical outcome. Furthermore, a full-length human HER-2/neu cDNA was introduced into five human breast cancer cell lines to define the effects of HER-2/neu overexpression on uPA and PAI-1 expression. In addition, we tested whether HER-2/neu antibodies could reverse any given alteration of uPA and PAI-1 levels.Our findings indicate a weak positive association between HER-2/neu and uPA (r = 0.147; P < 0.001) and no association between HER-2/neu and PAI-1 (r = 0.07; P = 0.085). HER-2/neu overexpression (> or =400 fmol/mg) and high levels of uPA/PAI-1 (> or =5.5 ng/mg and/or > or =14 ng/mg, respectively) were significantly associated with shorter disease-free survival (DFS; P < 0.001 and P = 0.003) and metastasis-free survival (MFS; P = 0.015 and P < 0.001). Multivariate analysis revealed prognostic independence between HER-2/neu and the uPA/PAI-1 axis for DFS and MFS. Both uPA and PAI-1 had no significant discriminatory effect among HER-2/neu-positive patients for DFS. The prognostic value of HER-2/neu overexpression for MFS, however, was significantly enhanced by elevated uPA expression (P = 0.053). Stable transfection of the HER-2/neu gene into multiple human breast cancer cell lines resulted in consistent down-regulation of uPA or PAI-1 expression. In addition, anti-HER-2/neu antibodies did not significantly affect uPA or PAI-1 expression in human cancer cell lines naturally overexpressing HER-2/neu.The present findings suggest that the invasive phenotype elicited by HER-2/neu overexpression in breast cancer is not a direct effect of uPA or PAI-1 expression. HER-2/neu and the uPA/PAI-1 axis have been shown to affect the invasive capacity of breast cancer independently. Determination of uPA can provide significant additional prognostic information for MFS in HER-2/neu-positive and -negative patients.
View details for Web of Science ID 000170328300038
View details for PubMedID 11489825