The human cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma microenvironment is characterized by increased lymphatic density and enhanced expression of macrophage-derived VEGF-C

J Invest Dermatol. 2011 Jan;131(1):229-36. doi: 10.1038/jid.2010.266. Epub 2010 Sep 9.


Metastases from primary cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) account for the majority of the ∼10,000 non-melanoma skin cancer deaths in the United States annually. We studied lymphangiogenesis in human SCC because of the potential link to metastasis. SCC samples were stained for lymphatic endothelial vessel marker LYVE-1 and positive cells were counted and compared with cells in normal skin. Gene set enrichment analysis and reverse transcription (RT)-PCR were performed on SCC, on adjacent non-tumor-bearing skin, and on normal skin to determine the differential expression of lymphangiogenesis-associated genes. Laser capture microdissection (LCM) was performed to isolate tumor cells and tumor-associated inflammatory cells for further gene expression analysis. Immunofluorescence was performed to determine the source of vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) in the tumor microenvironment. We found increased lymphatic density and reorganized lymphatic endothelial vessels in the dermis immediately adjacent to SCC nests. RT-PCR confirmed the presence of VEGF-C in skin immediately adjacent to SCC. LCM confirmed the increased expression of VEGF-C, the SCC inflammatory infiltrate. The presence of CD163(+)/CD68(+)/VEGFC(+) cells and absence of VEGF-C expression by CD3(+) or CD11C(+) cells suggested that VEGF-C is derived from tumor-associated macrophages. Clarification of mechanisms governing SCC-mediated lymphangiogenesis may identify potential targets for therapeutic intervention against aggressive or inoperable disease.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Biopsy
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / immunology
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / metabolism
  • Carcinoma, Squamous Cell* / pathology
  • Endothelial Cells / metabolism
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology*
  • Fluorescent Antibody Technique
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / physiology
  • Humans
  • Lymphangiogenesis / physiology
  • Macrophages / metabolism*
  • Membrane Glycoproteins / genetics
  • Microscopy, Confocal
  • Neuropilin-2 / genetics
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Skin Neoplasms* / immunology
  • Skin Neoplasms* / metabolism
  • Skin Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Tumor Microenvironment / physiology*
  • Up-Regulation / physiology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C / metabolism*


  • Membrane Glycoproteins
  • Neuropilin-2
  • PDPN protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor C