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Imaging of Angiotropism/Vascular Co-Option in a Murine Model of Brain Melanoma: Implications for Melanoma Progression along Extravascular Pathways.

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Angiotropism/pericytic mimicry and vascular co-option involve tumor cell interactions with the abluminal vascular surface. These two phenomena may be closely related. However, investigations of the two processes have developed in an independent fashion and different explanations offered as to their biological nature. Angiotropism describes the propensity of tumor cells to spread distantly via continuous migration along abluminal vascular surfaces, or extravascular migratory metastasis (EVMM). Vascular co-option has been proposed as an alternative mechanism by which tumors cells may gain access to a blood supply. We have used a murine brain melanoma model to analyze the interactions of GFP human melanoma cells injected into the mouse brain with red fluorescent lectin-labeled microvascular channels. Results have shown a striking spread of melanoma cells along preexisting microvascular channels and features of both vascular co-option and angiotropism/pericytic mimicry. This study has also documented the perivascular expression of Serpin B2 by angiotropic melanoma cells in the murine brain and in human melanoma brain metastases. Our findings suggest that vascular co-option and angiotropism/pericytic mimicry are closely related if not identical processes. Further studies are needed in order to establish whether EVMM is an alternative form of cancer metastasis in addition to intravascular cancer dissemination.

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