To assess the postulated correlation between plasminogen activators (PAs) and malignancy, we determined the mRNA content for urokinase-type (u-PA) and tissue-type (t-PA) enzymes in a prospective series of 29 primary lung and 27 primary breast carcinomas. Dot blots of total RNAs were hybridized with appropriate cRNA probes under conditions that allow quantitative measurement of the mRNA level for each PA. Most tumors (43 of 56) had a u-PA mRNA content higher than the mean + 1 SD of nonmalignant tissue counterparts. A large, 4- to 20-fold, increase in u-PA mRNA content was demonstrated in 14 of 29 lung carcinomas and in 10 of 27 breast carcinomas.

A statistically significant correlation (Fisher's test, P = 0.007) was found between elevated u-PA mRNA content in lung carcinomas and the presence of regional lymph node metastases. These results are consistent with a role for u-PA in tumor invasiveness and metastatic propensity and may have important prognostic and therapeutic implications.

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This work was supported by the Fonds National Suisse de la Recherche Scientifique, Grants 3.736.-9.83 and 3.075-0.84, the Georg Waechter Memorial Foundation, and the Sir Jules Thorn Charitable Trust.

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