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Cell Biophys. 1993 Aug-Dec;23(1-3):3-89.

Adhesion molecules and their role in cancer metastasis.

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Department of Pathology, McMaster University, Hamilton, Ontario.


This article describes various adhesion molecules and reviews evidence to support a mechanistic role for adhesion molecules in the process of cancer metastasis. A variety of evidence supports the involvement of specific adhesion molecules in metastasis. 1. For example, some cancer cells metastasize to specific organs, irrespective of the first organ encountered by the circulating cancer cells. This ability to colonize a specific organ has been correlated with the preferential adhesion of the cancer cells to endothelial cells derived from the target organ. This suggests that cancer cell/endothelial cell adhesion is involved in cancer cell metastasis and that adhesion molecules are expressed on the endothelium in an organ-specific manner. 2. Further, inclusion of peptides that inhibit cell adhesion, such as the YIGSR- or RGD-containing peptides, is capable of inhibiting experimental metastasis. 3. Metastasis can be enhanced by acute or chronic inflammation of target vessels, or by treatment of animals with inflammatory cytokines, such as interleukin-1. In vitro, cancer cell/endothelial cell adhesion can be enhanced by pretreating the endothelial cell monolayer with cytokines, such as interleukin-1 or tumor necrosis factor-alpha. This suggests that, in addition to organ-specific adhesion molecules, a population of inducible endothelial adhesion molecules is involved and is relevant to metastasis. 4. Further support for this model is found in the comparison to leukocyte/endothelial adhesion during leukocyte trafficking. Convincing evidence exists, both in vivo and in vitro, to demonstrate an absolute requirement for leukocyte/endothelial adhesion before leukocyte extravasation can occur. The relevance of this comparison to metastasis is reinforced by the observation that some of the adhesion molecules involved in leukocyte/endothelial adhesion are also implicated in cancer cell/endothelial adhesion. The involvement of adhesion molecules suggests a potential therapy for metastasis based on interrupting adhesive interactions that would augment other treatments for primary tumors.

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