Matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) have traditionally been considered as tumor promoting enzymes as they degrade extracellular matrix components, thus increasing the invasion of cancer cells. It has become evident, however, that MMPs can also cleave and alter the function of various non-matrix bioactive molecules, leading to both tumor promoting and suppressive effects. We applied systematic review guidelines to study MMP8 in cancer including the use of MMP8 as a prognostic factor or as a target/anti-target in cancer treatment, and its molecular mechanisms. A total of 171 articles met the inclusion criteria. The collective evidence reveals that in breast, skin and oral tongue cancer, MMP8 inhibits cancer cell invasion and proliferation, and protects patients from metastasis via cleavage of non-structural substrates. Conversely, in liver and gastric cancers, high levels of MMP8 worsen the prognosis. Expression and genetic alterations of MMP8 can be used as a prognostic factor by examination of the tumor and serum/plasma. We conclude, that MMP8 has differing effects on cancers depending on their tissue of origin. The use of MMP8 as a prognostic factor alone, or with other factors, seems to have potential. The molecular mechanisms of MMP8 in cancer further emphasize its role as an important regulator of bioactive molecules.
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