In animal models, explosive growth of metastases after removal of the primary tumor has been attributed to abolishment of angiogenesis inhibition. We investigated the influence of (removal of) the primary tumor on vascularization of liver metastases in human colorectal cancer patients. We analyzed vascular density in synchronous liver metastases from patients with the primary tumor in situ, in synchronous metastases from patients with the primary tumor resected and in metachronous metastases. In a limited number of cases, biopsies from metastases from the same patient before and within 3 months after resection were analyzed. In addition, vascular density in metastases was compared to the vascular density in the corresponding primary tumor. Peritumoral and intratumoral vascular density were determined by staining for endothelial antigens CD31 and CD34, respectively. Both peritumoral and intratumoral vascular density were elevated in synchronous metastases from patients with the primary tumor removed compared to synchronous metastases from patients with the primary tumor in situ. Comparable results were observed in patients with metachronous metastases. An increase in vascular density after resection of the colorectal malignancy was also observed in biopsies taken from the same patient before and after tumor resection. Remarkably, vascular density in the liver metastases was always lower than that in the corresponding primary tumor. Our data show for the first time in humans that the presence of a primary tumor is correlated with decreased vascularization of its distant metastases. Resection of the primary tumor results in an increased vascularization of metastatic lesions.
Copyright 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.