Invasion patterns in brain metastases of solid cancers

Neuro Oncol. 2013 Dec;15(12):1664-72. doi: 10.1093/neuonc/not112. Epub 2013 Sep 30.


Background: Brain metastases are generally considered to be well demarcated from the surrounding brain parenchyma, although infiltrative growth patterns have been observed. We systemically investigated infiltration patterns and expression of adhesion molecules in a large and well-defined series of autopsy cases of brain metastases.

Methods: Ninety-seven autopsy specimens from 57 brain metastasis patients (primary tumor: 27 lung cancer, 6 breast cancer, 8 melanoma, 2 colorectal cancer, 1 kidney cancer, and 13 other) were evaluated for patterns of invasion into surrounding brain parenchyma. Expression of integrins αv; cytoplasmic β3, αvβ3, αvβ5, αvβ6, and αvβ8; and of E and N cadherin were evaluated using immunohistochemistry.

Results: Three main invasion patterns were seen: well-demarcated growth (29/57, 51%), vascular co-option (10/57, 18%), and diffuse infiltration (18/57, 32%). There was no statistically significant association of invasion pattern with primary tumor type, although vascular co-option was most common in melanoma brain metastases (4/10). Invasion patterns of different brain metastases of the same patient were highly concordant (P < .001, chi-square test). Distance of infiltration from the main tumor mass ranged from 12.5 µm to 450 µm (median 56.2 µm) and was not significantly different between the vascular co-option and the diffuse infiltration groups. Levels of αvβ6 were significantly higher in the well-demarcated group than in the vascular co-option and the diffuse infiltration groups (P = .033, Kruskal-Wallis test). Expression of αvβ5 in tumor cells was higher in brain metastasis lesions previously treated with stereotactic radiosurgery (P = .034, chi-square test).

Conclusions: Distinct invasion patterns of brain metastases into the brain parenchyma are not specific for primary tumor types, seem to be influenced by expression of αv integrin complexes, and may help to guide clinical decision-making.

Keywords: adhesion molecules; brain metastases; cadherin; integrin; invasion.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Autopsy
  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism*
  • Brain Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Brain Neoplasms / secondary*
  • Brain Neoplasms / therapy
  • Cadherins / metabolism*
  • Combined Modality Therapy
  • Female
  • Follow-Up Studies
  • Humans
  • Immunoenzyme Techniques
  • Integrins / metabolism*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Prognosis


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Cadherins
  • Integrins