Background: The importance of changes in the supporting tumor stroma for cancer initiation and progression is well established. The characteristics of an activated tumor stroma, however, are not completely understood. In an effort to better characterize the desmoplastic response to human skin tumors, we evaluated the expression pattern of three stromal cell markers, fibroblast-activation protein (FAP), endoglyx-1, and endosialin, in a series of melanocytic and epithelial skin tumors.
Methods: Immunohistochemistry using antibodies against FAP, endoglyx-1, and endosialin was carried out in skin samples obtained from 43 patients. Furthermore, microarray data from an independent set of human skin cancers were analyzed.
Results: FAP-positive fibroblasts were detected in all tumor tissues tested, including cases of melanocytic nevi, melanoma metastases, basal cell carcinomas, and squamous cell carcinomas. In cutaneous melanoma metastases, we identified different compartments within the stromal response on the basis of the regions of FAP expression. Endoglyx-1 expression was confined to normal and tumor blood vessel endothelium including 'hot spots' of neoangiogenesis within the cutaneous melanoma metastases. Endosialin was selectively induced in subsets of small- and medium-sized tumor blood vessels in melanoma metastases and squamous cell carcinomas.
Conclusions: These data describe novel aspects of stromal marker expression in distinct compartments of human skin tumors and may point to potential targets for novel therapeutic strategies aimed at the tumor stroma.