Open Access Open Badges Research article

Increased tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) expression in malignant breast, ovarian and melanoma tissue: an investigational study

A Honig1*, L Rieger1, M Kapp1, M Krockenberger1, M Eck2, J Dietl1 and U Kämmerer1

Author Affiliations

1 Dept. of Obstetrics and Gynecology, University of Wuerzburg, Germany

2 Dept. of Pathology, University of Wuerzburg, Germany

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:199  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-199

Published: 25 July 2006



Tartrate-resistant acid phosphatase (TRAP) is a metalloprotein enzyme that belongs to the acid phosphatases and is known to be expressed by osteoclasts. It has already been investigated as a marker of bone metastases in cancer patients. In this study, which examined the value of serum TRAP concentrations as a marker of bone disease in breast cancer patients, we observed high concentrations of TRAP even in patients without bone metastases. To elucidate this phenomenon, we examined the expression of TRAP in breast cancer cells and the cells of several other malignancies.


TRAP concentrations in the serum of tumor patients were determined by ELISA. The expression of TRAP in breast, ovarian, and cervical cancer and malignant melanoma was analyzed by immunohistochemistry. RT-PCR and immunocytology were used to evaluate TRAP expression in cultured tumor cells.


A marked increase in serum TRAP concentrations was observed in patients with breast and ovarian cancer, regardless of the presence or absence of bone disease. TRAP expression was found in breast and ovarian cancers and malignant melanoma, while cervical cancer showed only minimal expression of TRAP. Expression of TRAP was absent in benign tissue or was much less marked than in the corresponding malignant tissue. TRAP expression was also demonstrated in cultured primary cancer cells and in commercially available cell lines.


Overexpression of TRAP was detected in the cells of various different tumors. TRAP might be useful as a marker of progression of malignant disease. It could also be a potential target for future cancer therapies.