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BioMed Research International
Volume 2013, Article ID 852093, 11 pages
Review Article

Heparan Sulfate and Heparanase as Modulators of Breast Cancer Progression

1Programa de Glicobiologia, Instituto de Bioquímica de Médica, Universidade Federal do Rio de Janeiro, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21941-590, Brazil
2Laboratório de Bioquímica e Biologia Celular de Glicoconjugados, Hospital Universitário Clementino Fraga Filho, Rua Prof. Rodolpho P. Rocco No. 255, 4 andar, sala 4A-08, Rio de Janeiro, RJ 21941-590, Brazil

Received 10 June 2013; Accepted 4 July 2013

Academic Editor: Davide Vigetti

Copyright © 2013 Angélica M. Gomes et al. This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License, which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


Breast cancer is defined as a cancer originating in tissues of the breast, frequently in ducts and lobules. During the last 30 years, studies to understand the biology and to treat breast tumor improved patients’ survival rates. These studies have focused on genetic components involved in tumor progression and on tumor microenvironment. Heparan sulfate proteoglycans (HSPGs) are involved in cell signaling, adhesion, extracellular matrix assembly, and growth factors storage. As a central molecule, HSPG regulates cell behavior and tumor progression. HS accompanied by its glycosaminoglycan counterparts regulates tissue homeostasis and cancer development. These molecules present opposite effects according to tumor type or cancer model. Studies in this area may contribute to unveil glycosaminoglycan activities on cell dynamics during breast cancer exploring these polysaccharides as antitumor agents. Heparanase is a potent tumor modulator due to its protumorigenic, proangiogenic, and prometastatic activities. Several lines of evidence indicate that heparanase is upregulated in all human sarcomas and carcinomas. Heparanase seems to be related to several aspects regulating the potential of breast cancer metastasis. Due to its multiple roles, heparanase is seen as a target in cancer treatment. We will describe recent findings on the function of HSPGs and heparanase in breast cancer behavior and progression.