Background: The greater omentum is frequently involved in the course of gastrointestinal and ovarian tumors. Therefore, common practice in surgical treatment for especially gastric and ovarian cancer includes removal of the greater omentum. Paradoxically, many immune cells, such as macrophages that accumulate in so-called milky spots, reside within the omentum and are cytotoxic against tumor cells ex vivo. Consequently, omental macrophages might play an important role in killing tumor cells, and may hereby prevent development into local peritoneal recurrences. In the present study, we therefore evaluated the role of the omentum and the clinical relevance of omentectomy in minimal residual disease (MRD).
Methods: Tumor cell dissemination patterns on the omentum in a rat model were examined using DiI-labelled CC531s tumor cells. Additionally, intra peritoneal (i.p.) tumor load was investigated in rats that underwent omentectomy or sham laparotomy followed by i.p. injection of CC531s cells on day 21, which represented MRD.
Results: At 4 h post injection, tumor cells predominantly adhered on milky spots. Number of cells thereafter declined rapidly suggesting initial tumor killing functions in these specific immune aggregates. Despite initial reduction observed in milky spots, numbers of tumor cells however increased at fatty tissue stripes that border the omentum. This indicated proliferation at these locations, which corresponded to macroscopic observations of the omenta on day 21 after tumor cell injection. Omentectomy resulted in reduced intra-abdominal tumor load, which was completely attributable to the absence of the omentum, as tumor development did not differ on other sites. Even in the MRD group microscopic clusters of tumor cells located in the omentum eventually developed into macroscopic nodules.
Conclusion: Since the ability of omental milky spots is, even in MRD, insufficient to prevent intra abdominal tumor outgrowth, omentectomy, which reduces tumor load, is recommended in surgical treatment of intra abdominal tumors that are prone to disseminate intraperitoneally.