Co-evolution of cancer microenvironment reveals distinctive patterns of gastric cancer invasion: laboratory evidence and clinical significance

J Transl Med. 2010 Oct 15:8:101. doi: 10.1186/1479-5876-8-101.


Background: Cancer invasion results from constant interactions between cancer cells and their microenvironment. Major components of the cancer microenvironment are stromal cells, infiltrating inflammatory cells, collagens, matrix metalloproteinases (MMP) and newly formed blood vessels. This study was to determine the roles of MMP-9, MMP-2, type IV collagen, infiltrating macrophages and tumor microvessels in gastric cancer (GC) invasion and their clinico-pathological significance.

Methods: Paraffin-embedded tissue sections from 37 GC patients were studied by Streptavidin-Peroxidase (SP) immunohistochemical technique to determine the levels of MMP-2, MMP-9, type IV collagen, macrophages infiltration and microvessel density (MVD). Different invasion patterns were delineated and their correlation with major clinico-pathological information was explored.

Results: MMP2 expression was higher in malignant gland compared to normal gland, especially nearby the basement membrane (BM). High densities of macrophages at the interface of cancer nests and stroma were found where BM integrity was destroyed. MMP2 expression was significantly increased in cases with recurrence and distant metastasis (P = 0.047 and 0.048, respectively). Infiltrating macrophages were correlated with serosa invasion (P = 0.011) and TNM stage (P = 0.001). MVD was higher in type IV collagen negative group compared to type IV collagen positive group (P = 0.026). MVD was related to infiltrating macrophages density (P = 0.040). Patients with negative MMP9 expression had better overall survival (OS) compared to those with positive MMP9 expression (Median OS 44.0 vs 13.5 mo, P = 0.036). Median OS was significantly longer in type IV collagen positive group than negative group (Median OS 25.5 vs 10.0 mo, P = 0.044). The cumulative OS rate was higher in low macrophages density group than in high macrophages density group (median OS 40.5 vs 13.0 mo, P = 0.056). Median OS was significantly longer in low MVD group than high MVD group (median OS 39.0 vs 8.5 mo, P = 0.001). The difference of disease-free survival (DFS) between low MVD group and high MVD group was not statistically significant (P = 0.260). Four typical patterns of cancer invasion were identified based on histological study of the cancer tissue, including Washing pattern, Ameba-like pattern, Spindle pattern and Linear pattern.

Conclusions: Proteolytic enzymes MMP9, MMP2 and macrophages in stroma contribute to GC progression by facilitating the angiogenesis. Cancer invasion patterns may help predict GC metastasis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2 / metabolism
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness*
  • Paraffin Embedding
  • Stomach Neoplasms / enzymology
  • Stomach Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Survival Analysis


  • Matrix Metalloproteinase 2