Purpose of review: This review will examine developmental angiogenesis and tumor-related changes to endothelial cells.
Recent findings: Processes that govern developmental angiogenesis become dysfunctional in the tumor environment, leading to abnormal tumor endothelial cells and blood vessels. Recent findings suggest that tumor endothelial cells are permanently modified compared with normal counterparts.
Summary: Coordination of numerous intracellular and extracellular programs promotes the formation of new blood vessels that are necessary for both development and certain diseases. Developmental angiogenesis uses canonical signaling modalities to effectively assemble endothelial cells into predictable vessel structures, and disruption of critical signaling factors has dramatic effects on blood vessel development. Solid tumors co-opt developmental cues to promote formation of tumor vessels that sustain their growth, but these angiogenic signals are not well regulated and produce endothelial cell dysfunction. Aberrant growth factor signaling contributes to phenotypic changes and acquired irreversible intracellular signaling, cytoskeletal and genetic modifications in endothelial cells of tumor vessels. Permanently altered tumor endothelial cells may represent a significant population.