Role of plasma, platelets, and endothelial cells in tumor metastasis

Cancer Metastasis Rev. 1984;3(2):99-114. doi: 10.1007/BF00047657.


This review studies interactions of tumor cells with a particular host system which is normally responsible for hemostasis and the physiological integrity of the blood vessel luminal surface. With malignancy components of this system are frequently activated, producing abnormalities of blood coagulation, increased platelet responses, and conditions favoring tumor growth and metastasis. Activation of the clotting cascade is mediated by tumor and macrophage procoagulants, acting via Factor X or VII. Thrombin and fibrin are formed. Thrombin also interacts with platelets and the endothelium, potentiating or decreasing coagulation. Generation of thrombin or other tumor mechanisms activate platelets, leading to direct aggregation or secretion of ADP, serotonin, and/or intermediates of the arachidonate metabolism. Vascular lesions caused by tumor attack, platelet secretion, or exogenous agents promoting metastasis may also activate the hemostatic system. It is not yet fully understood how activation of the clotting system, including platelets, contributes to metastasis. Secretion of platelet products appears, however, to be heavily involved. Based on putative mechanisms of action, anticoagulants, platelet inhibitors, thrombocytopenic or vascular repairing agents have been used to control tumor spread. Results depended on the agent and experimental model of metastasis used. Except for coumarin, which was beneficial even against spontaneous metastases, other anticoagulants and platelet inhibitors, excluding perhaps Nafazatrom, gave equivocal results. Thrombocytopenic agents, however, were effective in every tumor system and with any experimental model of metastasis, indicating that platelets play a role in this process. Also consistent were the inhibitory effects of leech salivary gland extract (probably a vascular repairing agent) against lung tumor colonization promoted by ionizing radiation, cyclophosphamide, and cortisone.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Blood Coagulation
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Blood Vessels / physiopathology*
  • Cell Membrane / physiology
  • Endothelium / pathology
  • Endothelium / physiopathology
  • Hemostasis*
  • Humans
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / pathology
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology*
  • Plasma / physiology*
  • Platelet Aggregation
  • Thrombocytopenia / physiopathology