Reevaluating cathepsin D as a biomarker for breast cancer: Serum activity levels versus histopathology

Daniel E. Abbott, Naira V. Margaryan, Jacqueline S. Jeruss, Seema Ahsan Khan, Virginia Kaklamani, David J. Winchester, Nora M Hansen, Alfred W Rademaker, Zhila Khalkhali-Ellis, Mary J.C. Hendrix

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

33 Scopus citations


Cathepsin D is a lysosomal hydrolase involved in intra- and extracellular proteolysis. This enzyme is aberrantly produced and processed in malignancy, and most notably is over-secreted into the tumor cell microenvironment. This hypersecretion may lead to excessive degradation of the extracellular matrix, and contribute to tumor progression and metastases. These phenomena have been established in vitro, and there is evidence that Cathepsin d is similarly dysregulated in human breast cancer patients. Because breast cancer lacks an effective screening or surveillance biomarker, here we address the hypothesis that serum Cathepsin d activity may be useful to assess the presence or progression of breast cancer in females. While representative histologic sections from various disease-specific cohorts confirm previous findings that increased Cathepsin d production and secretion correlate with tumor progression, we report no difference in serum Cathepsin d activity between patients who are disease free, patients with pre-invasive or limited invasive disease, and patients with metastatic disease. Furthermore, in patients with known metastatic disease, there were no clinical variables associated with significantly different serum Cathepsin D activity. However, the immunohistochemical localization of Cathepsin d expression in histopathologic sections from breast cancer patients correlates with disease progression. Based on the serum results, and in contradistinction to Cathepsin D localization in breast cancer tissues, our findings support using Cathepsin d as a reliable histopathology biomarker for disease progression, but not for serum screening.

Original languageEnglish (US)
JournalCancer biology & therapy
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 2010


  • Biomarker
  • Breast cancer
  • Cathepsin D
  • Metastases
  • Serum

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Molecular Medicine
  • Oncology
  • Pharmacology
  • Cancer Research


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