Contribution of cancer stem cells to tumor vasculogenic mimicry

Protein Cell. 2011 Apr;2(4):266-72. doi: 10.1007/s13238-011-1041-2. Epub 2011 Apr 29.


Vasculogenic mimicry (VM), a newly-defined pattern of tumor blood supply, provides a special passage without endothelial cells and is conspicuously different from angiogenesis and vasculogenesis. The biological features of the tumor cells that form VM remain unknown. Cancer stem cells (CSCs) are believed to be tumor-initiating cells, capable of self-renewal and multipotent differentiation, which resemble normal stem cells in phenotype and function. Recently CSCs have been shown to contribute to VM formation as well as angiogenesis. These findings challenge the previous understanding of the cellular basis of VM formation. In this review, we present evidence for participation of CSCs in VM formation. We also discuss the potential mechanisms and possible interaction of CSCs with various elements in tumor microenvironment niche. Based on the importance of VM in tumor progression, it constitutes a novel therapeutic target for cancer.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Cell Differentiation
  • Endothelial Cells / pathology
  • Epithelial-Mesenchymal Transition
  • Extracellular Matrix / metabolism*
  • Extracellular Matrix / pathology
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Molecular Mimicry
  • Neoplasms* / blood supply
  • Neoplasms* / pathology
  • Neoplastic Processes*
  • Neoplastic Stem Cells / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / genetics
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism*
  • Tumor Microenvironment