Sunitinib is an antiangiogenic therapy given as a first-line treatment for renal cell carcinoma (RCC). While treatment improves progression-free survival, most patients relapse. We hypothesized that patient relapse can stem from the development of a lymphatic network driven by the production of the main growth factor for lymphatic endothelial cells, VEGFC. In this study, we found that sunitinib can stimulate vegfc gene transcription and increase VEGFC mRNA half-life. In addition, sunitinib activated p38 MAPK, which resulted in the upregulation/activity of HuR and inactivation of tristetraprolin, two AU-rich element-binding proteins. Sunitinib stimulated a VEGFC-dependent development of lymphatic vessels in experimental tumors. This may explain our findings of increased lymph node invasion and new metastatic sites in 30% of sunitinib-treated patients and increased lymphatic vessels found in 70% of neoadjuvant treated patients. In summary, a therapy dedicated to destroying tumor blood vessels induced the development of lymphatic vessels, which may have contributed to the treatment failure. Cancer Res; 77(5); 1212-26. ©2017 AACR.
©2017 American Association for Cancer Research.