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Lymph node blood vessels provide exit routes for metastatic tumor cell dissemination in mice

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Science  23 Mar 2018:
Vol. 359, Issue 6382, pp. 1408-1411
DOI: 10.1126/science.aal3662

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An alternate route for metastatic cells

Metastatic tumor cells are thought to reach distant organs by traveling through the blood circulation or the lymphatic system. Two studies of mouse models now suggest a hybrid route for tumor cell dissemination. Pereira et al. and Brown et al. used distinct methodologies to monitor the fate of tumor cells in lymph nodes. They found that tumor cells could invade local blood vessels within a node, exit the node by entering the blood circulation, then go on to colonize the lung. Whether this dissemination route occurs in cancer patients is unknown; the answer could potentially change the way that affected lymph nodes are treated in cancer.

Science, this issue p. 1403, p. 1408

Abstract

During metastasis, malignant cells escape the primary tumor, intravasate lymphatic vessels, and reach draining sentinel lymph nodes before they colonize distant organs via the blood circulation. Although lymph node metastasis in cancer patients correlates with poor prognosis, evidence is lacking as to whether and how tumor cells enter the bloodstream via lymph nodes. To investigate this question, we delivered carcinoma cells into the lymph nodes of mice by microinfusing the cells into afferent lymphatic vessels. We found that tumor cells rapidly infiltrated the lymph node parenchyma, invaded blood vessels, and seeded lung metastases without involvement of the thoracic duct. These results suggest that the lymph node blood vessels can serve as an exit route for systemic dissemination of cancer cells in experimental mouse models. Whether this form of tumor cell spreading occurs in cancer patients remains to be determined.

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