Pathogenesis of vertebral metastasis and epidural spinal cord compression

Francisco Arguello*, Reggie E Duerst, Karen McQueen, Christopher N. Frantz, Raymond B. Baggs, Linda Johnstone

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

158 Scopus citations


The authors have studied the sequential events in the process of vertebral metastasis that result in spinal cord compression. Different tumor cell lines were injected into the systemic arterial circulation of syngeneic or nude mice, and they were killed at timed intervals after injection or when they became paraplegic. The following observations were made. The tumor cells lodged and grew in the hematopoietic bone marrow of the vertebrae. Cancer cells in the vertebral marrow cavity invaded into the spinal canal through the foramina of the vertebral veins rather than destroying the cortical bone. Tumor cell lines that grew in an infiltrative fashion migrated toward a posterior location in the spinal canal, and compressed the spinal cord from a posterior direction. Tumor cell lines that grew as compact tumors formed a tumor mass at the same location from which the cells emerged from the vertebra, and compressed the cord predominantly from an anterior direction. Radiographic evidence of vertebral metastasis was a late event, and commonly associated with significant compression of the cord and extraosseous tumor. These experimental findings may help to establish better diagnostic and treatment strategies for patients with metastatic disease of the spine.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)98-106
Number of pages9
Issue number1
StatePublished - Jan 1 1990

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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