Active versus passive mechanisms in metastasis: do cancer cells crawl into vessels, or are they pushed?

Lancet Oncol. 2007 May;8(5):444-8. doi: 10.1016/S1470-2045(07)70140-7.


Although millions of cells are shed from a tumour every day, haematogenous metastasis is believed to be very inefficient. This inefficiency is widely assumed to be a result of the destruction of cells in the bloodstream by shear stress and the immune system and a slow rate of extravasation and proliferation in the stroma at a secondary site. Here, we propose that, whereas active intravasation of cells into the circulation is important in some tumours, others might shed cells passively into the blood or lymphatic vessels without the involvement of active cell migration. We discuss the evidence for and against this passive-shedding hypothesis and the implications for future treatments.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Blood Vessels / pathology*
  • Cell Adhesion*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic