We have developed a sensitive and specific sandwich-type enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay to detect M(r) 72,000 type IV collagenase [matrix metalloproteinase 2 (MMP-2)] in human plasma. As a result of the linkage between MMP-2 production by cancer cells and the metastatic phenotype, we undertook this study to compare plasma MMP-2 levels in healthy individuals, patients with various types of cancer, and hospitalized patients with chronic diseases other than cancer. The results demonstrate that MMP-2 levels are not increased in cancer patients regardless of the extent of disseminated malignancy. In an effort to explain this data, we compared MMP-2 secretion by human umbilical vein endothelial cells and lung cancer cells passaged as cell lines. Endothelial cells secreted higher levels of MMP-2 than did lung cancer cells propagated in vitro. We propose that blood vessel lining cells make a sizable contribution to plasma levels of MMP-2 and may thereby obfuscate the detection of increased levels of MMP-2 originating from extravascular sources such as solid tumors.

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