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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Inhibition of cyclooxygenase-2 decreases breast cancer cell motility, invasion and matrix metalloproteinase expression

Teri L Larkins1, Marchele Nowell2, Shailesh Singh13 and Gary L Sanford1*

Author Affiliations

1 Department of Microbiology, Immunology and Biochemistry Morehouse School of Medicine Atlanta, GA 30310-1495, USA

2 Georgia State University Atlanta, GA 30302-3965, USA

3 James Graham Brown Cancer Center University of Louisville, School of Medicine Louisville, KY 40202-1756, USA

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:181  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-181

Published: 10 July 2006



Cyclooxygenase (COX) is the rate-limiting enzyme that catalyzes the formation of prostaglandins. The inducible isoform of COX (COX-2) is highly expressed in aggressive metastatic breast cancers and may play a critical role in cancer progression (i.e. growth and metastasis). However, the exact mechanism(s) for COX-2-enhanced metastasis has yet to be clearly defined. It is well established that one of the direct results of COX-2 action is increased prostaglandin production, especially prostaglandin E2 (PGE2). Here, we correlate the inhibition of COX-2 activity with decreased breast cancer cell proliferation, migration, invasion and matrix metalloproteinase (MMP) expression.


Breast cancer cells (Hs578T, MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7) were treated with selective COX-2 inhibitors (NS-398 and Niflumic acid, NA). Cell proliferation was measured by staining with erythrosin B and counting the viable cells using a hemacytometer. Cell migration and invasion were measured using migration and invasion chamber systems. MMP expression was determined by enzyme immunoassay (secreted protein) and real-time quantitative polymerase chain reaction (mRNA).


Our results show that there is a decline in proliferation, migration and invasion by the Hs578T and MDA-MB-231 breast cancer cell lines in the presence of either low concentrations (1 μM or lower) NA or NS-398. We also report that MMP mRNA and protein expression by Hs578T cells is inhibited by NS-398; there was a 50% decrease by 100 μM NS-398. PGE2 completely reversed the inhibitory effect of NS-398 on MMP mRNA expression.


Our data suggests that COX-2-dependent activity is a necessary component for cellular and molecular mechanisms of breast cancer cell motility and invasion. COX-2 activity also modulates the expression of MMPs, which may be a part of the molecular mechanism by which COX-2 promotes cell invasion and migration. The studies suggest that COX-2 assists in determining and defining the metastatic signaling pathways that promote the breast cancer progression to metastasis.