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Cancer Res. 2012 Aug 1;72(15):3851-63.

Embryonic protein nodal promotes breast cancer vascularization.

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  • 1Department of Anatomy & Cell Biology, University of Western Ontario, London, Ontario, Canada.


Tumor vascularization is requisite for breast cancer progression, and high microvascular density in tumors is a poor prognostic indicator. Patients bearing breast cancers expressing human embryonic stem cell (hESC)-associated genes similarly exhibit high mortality rates, and the expression of embryonic proteins is associated with tumor progression. Here, we show that Nodal, a hESC-associated protein, promotes breast cancer vascularization. We show that high levels of Nodal are positively correlated with high vascular densities in human breast lesions (P = 0.0078). In vitro, we show that Nodal facilitates breast cancer-induced endothelial cell migration and tube formation, largely by upregulating the expression and secretion of proangiogenic factors by breast cancer cells. Using a directed in vivo angiogenesis assay and a chick chorioallantoic membrane assay, we show that Nodal promotes vascular recruitment in vivo. In a clinically relevant in vivo model, whereby Nodal expression was inhibited following tumor formation, we found a significant reduction in tumor vascularization concomitant with elevated hypoxia and tumor necrosis. These findings establish Nodal as a potential target for the treatment of breast cancer angiogenesis and progression.

©2012 AACR.

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