Bone marrow-derived cells are implicated as a source of lymphatic endothelial progenitors in human breast cancer

Oncoimmunology. 2014 Jun 25:3:e29080. doi: 10.4161/onci.29080. eCollection 2014.


Bone marrow-derived endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs) infiltrate into sites of neovascularization in adult tissues and mature into functional blood endothelial cells (BECs) during a process called vasculogenesis. Human marrow-derived EPCs have recently been reported to display a mixed myeloid and lymphatic endothelial cell (LEC) phenotype during inflammation-induced angiogenesis; however, their role in cancer remains poorly understood. We report the in vitro differentiation of human cord blood CD133+CD34+ progenitors into podoplanin+ cells expressing both myeloid markers (CD11b, CD14) and the canonical LEC markers vascular endothelium growth factor receptor 3 (VEGFR-3), lymphatic vessel endothelial hyaluronan receptor 1 (LYVE-1), and prospero homeobox 1 (PROX-1). These podoplanin+ cells displayed sprouting behavior comparable to that of LECs in vitro and a dual hemangiogenic and lymphangiogenic activity in vivo in an endothelial cell sprouting assay and corneal vascularization assay, respectively. Furthermore, these cells expressed vascular endothelium growth factor (VEGF) family members A, -C, and -D. Thus, bone-marrow derived EPCs stimulate hemangiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis through their ability to differentiate into LECs and to produce angiogenic factors. Importantly, plasma from patients with breast cancer induced differentiation of CD34+ cord blood progenitors into hemangiogenic and lymphangiogenic CD11b+ myeloid cells, whereas plasma from healthy women did not have this effect. Consistent with these findings, circulating CD11b+ cells from breast cancer patients, but not from healthy women, displayed a similar dual angiogenic activity. Taken together, our results show that marrow-derived EPCs become hemangiogenic and lymphangiogenic upon exposure to cancer plasma. These newly identified functions of bone-marrow derived EPCs are expected to influence the diagnosis and treatment of breast cancer.

Keywords: angiogenesis; bone-marrow derived cells; breast cancer; lymphangiogenesis; lymphatic endothelial cells; podoplanin; vasculogenesis.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't