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Anticancer Res. 2002 Mar-Apr;22(2A):677-88.

Angiogenesis and fibroblast proliferation precede formation of recurrent tumors after radiation therapy in nude mice.

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Department of Radiology, Johannes Gutenberg-University Mainz, Germany.


Recently, the combination of ionizing radiation with inhibitors of angiogenesis has been reported to improve tumor eradication compared to treatment with irradiation alone. However, the mechanisms of this effect have not been defined. For this purpose [corrected] we established a non-small cell lung cancer model in nude mice. Tumor vascularization was visualized in vivo by MRI using gadolinium-DTPA as contrast agent. Further, cryosections were produced as close as possible to the MRI slice positions. Since we were interested in examining the formation of a recurrent tumor, irradiation was performed with a single fraction of 4 Gy. This dose caused a partial remission followed by recurrent tumor growth 25 to 35 days after therapy. The process of partial remission as well as formation of the recurrent tumor was examined in 28 nude mice analysing the following parameters: (i) contrast agent enhancement using high-resolution MRI, (ii) proliferation of tumor cells and fibroblasts using Ki-67 immunohistochemistry and (iii) formation of microvessels using CD31 immunohistochemistry. The latter analyses led to differentiation of three stages. Stage 1 (day 1 to day 15 after irradiation) was characterized by increasing areas of dead cell mass in hematoxylin-eosin-stained slides that corresponded to a decrease in tumor cell proliferation as well as contrast agent enhancement in MRI. The percentage of Ki-67-positive tumor cells decreased from initially 45.1% +/- 6.0% (mean +/- standard deviation) to 1.4% +/- 1.2% (mean +/- standard deviation) on day 15. Stage 2 (day 6 to day 20 after irradiation; overlapping with stage 1) was characterized by proliferation of fibroblasts leading to formation of fibrotic septae with abundant microvessels. Already during late stage 2, MRI identified new contrast agent enhancing areas. Stage 3 (day 20 to day 40 after irradiation) was characterized by new tumor cell proliferation. Interestingly, tumor cells almost exclusively proliferated in the direct neighbourhood of the fibrotic septae that had been formed in stage 2. Obviously, proliferation of fibroblasts and blood vessels was a condition prior to formation of recurrent tumor tissue. Thus, our results are in contrast with the view that tumors or recurrent tumors begin as avascular masses that later induce neovascularization. With respect to clinical practice, our results suggest that: (i) adjuvant anti-angiogenic therapy should not be limited to the day of irradiation but should cover a critical period until day 5 to day 20 after radiotherapy, (ii) adjuvant therapy should also include inhibition of fibroblast proliferation and (iii) MRI can identify a recurrent tumor 10 to 15 days before occurrence of new tumor growth.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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