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J Invest Dermatol. 2013 Jan;133(1):230-8. doi: 10.1038/jid.2012.272. Epub 2012 Sep 6.

Epidermal growth factor facilitates melanoma lymph node metastasis by influencing tumor lymphangiogenesis.

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Department of Dermatology, Medical University of Vienna, Vienna, Austria.


Alterations in epidermal growth factor (EGF) expression are known to be of prognostic relevance in human melanoma, but EGF-mediated effects on melanoma have not been extensively studied. As lymph node metastasis usually represents the first major step in melanoma progression, we were trying to identify a potential role of primary tumor-derived EGF in the mediation of melanoma lymph node metastases. Stable EGF knockdown (EGFkd) in EGF-high (M24met) and EGF-low (A375) expressing melanoma cells was generated. Only in EGF-high melanoma cells, EGFkd led to a significant reduction of lymph node metastasis and primary tumor lymphangiogenesis in vivo, as well as impairment of tumor cell migration in vitro. Moreover, EGF-induced sprouting of lymphatic but not of blood endothelial cells was abolished using supernatants of M24met EGFkd cells. In addition, M24met EGFkd tumors showed reduced vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) expression levels. Similarly, in human primary melanomas, a direct correlation between EGF/VEGF-C and EGF/Prox-1 expression levels was found. Finally, melanoma patients with lymph node micrometastases undergoing sentinel node biopsy were found to have significantly elevated EGF serum levels as compared with sentinel lymph node-negative patients. Our data indicate that tumor-derived EGF is important in mediating melanoma lymph node metastasis.

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