Tumor cell vasculogenic mimicry (VM) describes the functional plasticity of aggressive cancer cells forming de novo vascular networks, thereby providing a perfusion pathway for rapidly growing tumors, transporting fluid from leaky vessels, and/or connecting with endothelial-lined vasculature. The underlying induction of VM seems to be related to hypoxia, which may also promote the plastic, transendothelial phenotype of tumor cells capable of VM. Since its introduction in 1999 as a novel paradigm for melanoma tumor perfusion, many studies have contributed new insights into the underlying molecular pathways supporting VM in a variety of tumors, including melanoma, glioblastoma, carcinomas, and sarcomas. In particular, critical VM-modulating genes are associated with vascular (VE-cadherin, EphA2, VEGF receptor 1), embryonic and/or stem cell (Nodal, Notch4), and hypoxia-related (hypoxia-inducible factor, Twist1) signaling pathways. Each of these pathways warrants serious scrutiny as potential therapeutic, vascular targets, and diagnostic indicators of plasticity, drug resistance, and the aggressive metastatic phenotype.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research