PURPOSE: The aim of this study was to evaluate the correlation between type I collagen degradation marker ICTP, MMP (matrix metalloproteinase)-9, and tissue inhibitor of metalloproteinase (TIMP)-1 and to compare their value as prognostic factors in lung cancer. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: From the sera of 141 lung cancer patients, we assessed markers of type I collagen synthesis (PINP and PICP) and degradation (ICTP) by radioimmunoassays, and we assessed MMP-9 and its tissue inhibitor TIMP-1 by ELISA. There were 62 squamous cell carcinomas, 42 adenocarcinomas, 14 small cell carcinomas, and 23 cases with other histology. Seventeen of these patients had advanced disease. Sixty-seven patients had been operated on, 33 had received radiation therapy, 7 had received chemotherapy, and the rest had received other treatment combinations. RESULTS: We examined the relationship between these markers and found a correlation between ICTP and MMP-9 (r = 0.201; P = 0.01) or TIMP-1 (r = 0.415; P = 0.00). Elevated serum concentrations of ICTP (>5 microg/liter) and/or TIMP-1 (>300 ng/ml) correlated with poor prognosis. In univariate regression analysis, ICTP had prognostic value (odds ratio, 1.6462; P 5 microg/liter) had a 64% higher risk of dying from lung cancer than did patients with opposite values. CONCLUSIONS: Our results indicated that ICTP and TIMP-1 are good prognostic markers in lung cancer. The association between serum MMP-9 and ICTP suggests that MMP-9 could play a role in the degradation of the extracellular matrix producing ICTP in this pathological situation.