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Clin Exp Metastasis. 2013 Mar;30(3):345-56. doi: 10.1007/s10585-012-9541-x. Epub 2012 Nov 3.

Tumor location and nature of lymphatic vessels are key determinants of cancer metastasis.

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Ludwig Institute for Cancer Research, Royal Melbourne Hospital, Post Office Box 2008, Parkville, VIC, 3050, Australia.


Tumor metastasis to lymph nodes is a key indicator of patient survival, and is enhanced by the neo-lymphatics induced by tumor-secreted VEGF-C or VEGF-D, acting via VEGFR-3 signalling. These targets constitute important avenues for anti-metastatic treatment. Despite this new understanding, clinical observations linking metastasis with tumor depth or location suggest that lymphangiogenic growth factors are not the sole determinants of metastasis. Here we explored the influence of tumor proximity to lymphatics capable of responding to growth factors on nodal metastasis in a murine VEGF-D over-expression tumor model. We found that primary tumor location profoundly influenced VEGF-D-mediated lymph node metastasis: 89 % of tumors associated with the flank skin metastasised, in contrast with only 19 % of tumors located more deeply on the body wall (p < 0.01). Lymphatics in metastatic tumors arose from small lymphatics, and displayed distinct molecular and morphological profiles compared with those found in normal lymphatics. Smaller lymphatic subtypes were more abundant in skin (2.5-fold, p < 0.01) than in body wall, providing a richer source of lymphatics for VEGF-D(+) skin tumors, a phenomenon also confirmed in human samples. This study shows that the proximity of a VEGF-D(+) primary tumor to small lymphatics is an important determinant of metastasis. These observations may explain why tumor location relative to the lymphatic network is prognostically important for some human cancers.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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