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Neoplasia. 2010 Nov;12(11):889-98.

Metastasis in melanoma xenografts is associated with tumor microvascular density rather than extent of hypoxia.

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Group of Radiation Biology and Tumor Physiology, Department of Radiation Biology, Institute for Cancer Research, Oslo University Hospital, Oslo, Norway.


The development of metastases has been shown to be associated with the microvascular density of the primary tumor in some clinical studies and with the extent of hypoxia in others. The aim of this study was to investigate the validity of these apparently inconsistent observations and to reveal possible links between them. Xenografted tumors of nine melanoma cell lines established from patients with diseases differing in aggressiveness were studied. The aggressiveness of the cell lines was assessed by measuring their lung colonization potential, invasiveness, angiogenic potential, and tumorigenicity. Spontaneous metastasis was assessed in untreated mice and mice treated with neutralizing antibody against vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) or interleukin 8 (IL-8). Microvascular density was scored in histologic preparations. Hypoxic fractions were measured by using a radiobiologic assay and a pimonidazole-based immunohistochemical assay. The aggressiveness of the melanoma lines reflected the aggressiveness of the donor patients' tumors. The metastatic propensity was associated with the microvascular density but not with the hypoxic fraction. Anti-VEGF-A and anti-IL-8 treatments resulted in decreased microvascular density and reduced incidence of metastases in all lines. Large hypoxic fractions were not a secondary effect of high cellular aggressiveness, whereas the microvascular density was associated with the cellular aggressiveness. The metastatic propensity was governed by the angiogenic potential of the tumor cells. The differences in microvascular density among the lines were most likely a consequence of differences in the constitutive angiogenic potential rather than differences in hypoxia-induced angiogenesis. VEGF-A and IL-8 may be important therapeutic targets for melanoma.

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