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J Surg Oncol. 1999 Mar;70(3):199-204.

What can we learn from the phenomenon of preferential lymph node metastasis in carcinoma?

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Department of Surgery, University of Connecticut Health Center, Farmington 06030-3955, USA.


Lymph nodes are the most common and earliest site of malignancies arising in epithelia. However, the reason for this pattern of preferential metastasis is not clear. This article reviews features of the metastatic process and lymph node microenvironment which might potentiate lymph node metastases. There is intriguing evidence that preferential lymph node metastasis is due to (1) the efficiency of lymph nodes as filters of the tumor cells which arrive there, and (2) the probability that adhesive interactions, normally governing the generation of different T-cell immune responses, are responsible for this efficiency and may also promote invasion and proliferation of tumor cells in the lymph node. Manipulation of the cytokine environment in a lymph node draining a primary epithelial tumor may alter both the expression of cell adhesion molecules within the node and the subsequent metastatic ability of the tumor cells arriving at it.

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