Platelets and P-selectin control tumor cell metastasis in an organ-specific manner and independently of NK cells

Cancer Res. 2012 Sep 15;72(18):4662-71. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-4010. Epub 2012 Jul 26.


The prometastatic role of platelets has long been recognized with proposed mechanisms of action including shielding tumor cells from natural killer (NK) cell destruction and aiding endothelial attachment and extravasation of tumor cells with platelet P-selectin being implicated in these processes. However, many aspects of the prometastatic function of platelets remain unclear. In this study, we used mouse models of metastatic breast cancer and melanoma to investigate the platelet effect, focusing on organ specificity, the relationship with NK cells and the relative importance of platelet-derived versus endothelial-derived P-selectin. We found that platelets promote lung metastasis in the absence of NK cells in both acute and spontaneous metastasis models. In addition, the prometastatic action of platelets was found to be organ specific, clearly enhancing lung metastasis but not affecting B16F1 liver metastasis, in fact, liver metastasis was enhanced in the absence of platelets. Furthermore, the profound antimetastatic activity of NK cells was equally effective in the presence or absence of platelets and chronologically distinct from the prometastatic role of platelets. Finally, it was shown that endothelial-derived P-selectin is just as important as platelet-derived P-selectin in promoting lung metastasis and also plays an important role in liver metastasis. Taken together, our findings help clarify the roles of platelets, NK cells and P-selectin in metastasis, and they identify P-selectin as an attractive therapeutic target for preventing metastasis in multiple organs.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Platelets / metabolism*
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Killer Cells, Natural / immunology*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / immunology
  • Melanoma, Experimental / metabolism*
  • Melanoma, Experimental / secondary
  • Mice
  • Mice, Inbred BALB C
  • Mice, Inbred C57BL
  • Mice, Inbred NOD
  • Mice, SCID
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / immunology
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness / pathology*
  • P-Selectin / metabolism*


  • P-Selectin