The histological observation that well-differentiated cancer cells in early hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) invade portal tracts and/or fibrous hands and that these fibrous tissues then disappear suggests the participation of matrix metalloproteinase-1 (MMP-1) in the degradation of fibrous tissue. To confirm this hypothesis, the authors investigated the localization of both the MMP-1 protein and its messenger RNA (mRNA) in early HCC immunohistochemically and by in situ hybridization using complementary DNA (cDNA) and synthetic antisense probe of MMP-1; they then compared the results with those in advanced HCC. MMP-1 gene transcripts and protein were observed in well-differentiated cancer cells of early HCC but not in moderately or poorly differentiated cancer cells. Thus, cancer cells producing MMP-1 in early HCC may destroy the portal tract tissue adjacent to the cancer lesion and/or the fibrous band of cirrhosis. These results seem to have demonstrated a difference in the mechanism of cancer growth and invasion between early and advanced HCCs.
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