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J Pathol. 2000 Feb;190(3):310-29.

Interactions between cancer cells and the endothelium in metastasis.

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Department of Pathology, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada.


The haematogenous phase of cancer metastasis facilitates the transport of metastatic cells within the blood and incorporates a sequence of interactions between circulating intravascular cancer cells and the endothelium of blood vessels at the sites of tumour cell arrest. Initial interactions involve mechanical contact and transient adhesion, mediated by endothelial selectins and their ligands on the neoplastic cells. This contact initiates a sequence of activation pathways that involves cytokines, growth factors, bioactive lipids, and reactive oxygen species produced by either the cancer cell or the endothelium. These molecules elicit expression of integrin adhesion molecules in cancer cells and the endothelium, matrix metalloproteinases, and chemotactic factors that promote the attachment of tumour cells to the vessel wall and/or transvascular penetration. Induction of endothelial free radicals can be cytotoxic to cancer cells. Collectively, the sum of these interactions constitutes an interdependent relationship, the outcome of which determines the fate of the metastatic process.

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