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Int J Oncol. 2012 Dec;41(6):2073-8. doi: 10.3892/ijo.2012.1665. Epub 2012 Oct 16.

Induced lymphatic sinus hyperplasia in sentinel lymph nodes by VEGF-C as the earliest premetastatic indicator.

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Cutaneous Biology Research Center, Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Charlestown, MA 02129, USA.


Research on tumor-induced lymphangiogenesis has predominantly focused on alterations and abnormal growth of peritumoral and intratumoral lymphatic vessels. However, recent evidence indicates that lymphangiogenesis of sentinel lymph nodes might also contribute to cancer progression. In clinical oncology, the sentinel lymph nodes play an important role in diagnosis, staging and management of disease. The prognostic value that may be placed in the analysis of various parameters in tumor-free lymph nodes is still under debate. We, therefore, chose to investigate genetically fluorescent MDA-MB-435/green fluorescent protein human cancer cells transfected to overexpress VEGF-C in a nude mouse model and investigated metastasis, lymph node lymphangiogenesis, lymph node angiogenesis and size of sentinel lymph nodes. The nature of MDA-MB-435, identified as a breast cancer cell line for several decades, has recently been reidentified as being from melanoma origin. Vascular endothelial growth factor-C overexpression induced early metastasis and significantly increased the lymphatic vessel area in sentinel lymph nodes even before the tumor metastasis. At early time-points, expansion of the lymphatic network was observed even though no difference of blood vessel area and lymph node size was detected. These results suggest that primary tumors -via secretion of VEGF-C- can induce hyperplasia of the sentinel lymph node lymphatic vessel network and thereby promote their further spread. In cases of tumor-free lymph nodes the increased lymphatic network of sentinel lymph nodes is a very early premetastatic sign and may provide a new prognostic indicator and target for aggressive diseases.

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