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J Cell Mol Med. 2009 Aug;13(8A):1405-16. doi: 10.1111/j.1582-4934.2009.00834.x. Epub 2009 Jul 6.

Lymphangiogenesis and cancer metastasis.

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Institute of Pharmaceutical Sciences, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, ETH Zurich, Zurich, Switzerland.


Metastasis is a characteristic trait of most tumour types and the cause for the majority of cancer deaths. Many tumour types, including melanoma and breast and prostate cancers, first metastasize via lymphatic vessels to their regional lymph nodes. Although the connection between lymph node metastases and shorter survival times of patients was made decades ago, the active involvement of the lymphatic system in cancer, metastasis has been unravelled only recently, after molecular markers of lymphatic vessels were identified. A growing body of evidence indicates that tumour-induced lymphangiogenesis is a predictive indicator of metastasis to lymph nodes and might also be a target for prevention of metastasis. This article reviews the current understanding of lymphangiogenesis in cancer anti-lymphangiogenic strategies for prevention and therapy of metastatic disease, quantification of lymphangiogenesis for the prognosis and diagnosis of metastasis and in vivo imaging technologies for the assessment of lymphatic vessels, drainage and lymph nodes.

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