Int J Biol Sci 2012; 8(8):1206-1216. doi:10.7150/ijbs.5147 This issue
1. National Medical Centre of Colorectal Disease, The Third Affiliated Hospital, Nanjing University of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), Nanjing, China.
2. Veterans Affair Medical Center, Washington, DC, USA.
3. Tumor Immunology Laboratory, Division of Oral Biology and Medicine, Jonsson Comprehensive Cancer Center, UCLA School of Dentistry, Los Angeles, CA. USA.
4. Department of Clinical Oncology, Queen Elizabeth Hospital, Hong Kong, China.
5. Diagnostic and Translational Research Center, Henry Jackson Foundation, MD, USA and College of Animal Science and Veterinary Medicine, Jilin University, Changchun, Jilin, China.
Background: A great number of in vitro and in vivo studies have suggested that many pathways or factors can stimulate angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, which facilitate tumor progression and metastasis. However, the morphological and immunohistochemical profile of newly formed vasculatures has not been elucidated, making it difficult to differentiate them from the pre-existing ones, and to identify their unique molecular profiles for diagnosis and therapeutic interventions.
Experimental findings: As cytokeratin (CK)-19 is a well-recognized stem cell marker and CK-19-positive cells are frequently detected in the peripheral blood of patients with metastatic cancer, our recent studies have assessed the involvement of CK-19 in the formation of new vasculatures in primary colorectal cancer (CRC) tissues. Our studies showed that a subset of lymph node-positive cases harbored some isolated normal epithelial structures with distinct CK-19 immunostaining within an otherwise CK-19-negative background. These structures are exclusively located within or adjacent to lymphoid follicles and are often surrounded by tube-like structures expressing lymphatic endothelial marker D2-40. Similar structures are more frequently seen at the junctions between pre-invasive and invasive CRC with the following features: (1). they consist of a single layer of endothelial cells that express both D2-40 and CD34, (2). their endothelial walls are often incomplete with disseminated cells protruding into the adjacent stroma, and (3). they are exclusively associated with disseminated CK-19-positive cells
Hypothesis: Based on these findings, we propose that these tube-like structures represent newly formed vasculatures, which are derived by the convergence of aberrant lymphocyte infiltration and tumor stem cells. Because of their close physical proximity, tumor stem cells within the epithelial and stromal components contribute equally and coordinately to the morphogenesis of new vasculatures, which constitutes the basis for the unique morphologic and immunohistochemical features of newly formed vasculatures. Our hypothesis appears to be applicable to all epithelium-derived cancers.
Keywords: CK-19, epithelium-derived cancers, tube-like structures