Consequences of angiogenesis for tumor progression, metastasis and cancer therapy

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The growth of solid tumors to a clinically relevant size is dependent upon an adequate blood supply.1 This is achieved by the process of tumor stroma generation where the formation of new capillaries is a central event.1,2 Progressive recruitment of blood vessels to the tumor site and reciprocal support of tumor expansion by the resulting neovasculature are thought to result in a self-perpetuating loop helping to drive the growth of solid tumors.3 The development of new vasculature also allows an ‘evacuation route’ for metastatically-competent tumor cells, enabling them to depart from the primary site and colonize initially unaffected organs.4 Several molecular and cellular mechanisms have been identified by which tumor parenchyma may exert its angiogenic effect on host endothelial cells.1–3,5–7 As a result of this paracrine influence, tumor-associated endothelial cells acquire an ‘immature’ phenotype1 manifested by rapid proliferation, migration, release of proteases and expression of cytokines, endothellal-specific tyrosine kinases (e.g. flk-1, tek and others) as well as numerous other molecular alterations.3 Consequently a network of structurally and functionally aberrant blood vessels is formed within the tumor mass.8 There is also evidence that endothelial cells themselves, and likewise other stromal cells, may act reciprocally to alter the behavior of adjacent tumor cells in a paracrine or cell contact mediated fashion.3 For example, production of interleukin 6(IL-6) by endothelial cells may have a differential effect on human melanoma cells expressing different degrees of aggressiveness.9 In this manner endothelial derived cytokines could conceivably contribute to tumor progression by suppressing the growth of the less aggressive tumor cells and promoting dominance of their malignant counterparts in ‘strategic’ perlvascular zones. Distinct biological features expressed by tumor-associated vasculature may serve as potential prognostic markers of disease progression as well as novel targets for therapeutic intervention.

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