Lymphangiogenesis and cancer

Genes Cancer. 2011 Dec;2(12):1146-58. doi: 10.1177/1947601911423028.


Historically, lymphatic vessels were considered passive participants in tumor metastasis by simply providing channels for tumor cells to transit to draining lymph nodes. The discovery of several key lymphatic-specific molecular markers and an increased availability of in vitro and in vivo experimental systems to study lymphatic biology have however highlighted a much more complex, active role for the lymphatic vasculature in metastatic tumor spread. This review will briefly describe the lymphatic system and lymphangiogenesis and then focus on the role of the lymphatic system in cancer metastasis. The progression of our understanding from the lymphatic system as a somewhat passive conduit for metastasis to an active participant in metastatic tumor dissemination, regulated by a complex array of lymphangiogenic factors, chemokines, and immune cell subsets, will be described.

Keywords: VEGF-C; lymphatic vessels; metastasis; tumor immunity.