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IOWA CITY, Iowa-- Until now, researchers widely assumed that tumors attracted nearby blood vessels to provide tumors with nutrition and pathways for tumor cells to spread throughout the body. This hypothesis, known as tumor angiogenesis, is the basis of intensive investigation and clinical trials worldwide.
However, in a study published in the September issue of the American Journal of Pathology, a University of Iowa research team reports that highly aggressive cancer cells themselves may generate their own vascular networks independent of angiogenesis. Because the researchers' discoveries call attention to an alternative pathway that is responsible for aggressive tumor growth and spread, the findings potentially could change the way cancers are regarded, diagnosed and treated.
The UI investigation was conducted by Andrew J. Maniotis, Ph.D., assistant research scientist in anatomy and cell biology; Robert Folberg, M.D., UI professor of pathology and ophthalmology; and Mary J.C. Hendrix, Ph.D., UI professor and head of anatomy and cell biology, and deputy director of the UI Cancer Center; together with their colleagues.
The researchers discovered that as human cancer cells progress toward more deadly forms, groups of aggressive cancer cells build primitive vascular channels. The researchers found this to be true in both specially engineered cultures and human cancer specimens.
The results may explain why aggressive cancers do not respond to conventional chemotherapies or why tumor growth and spread can continue even when conventional therapies are combined with experimental chemotherapies that may block angiogenesis in animal models and in humans.
"The vascular channels form between tightly packed groups of aggressive cells;
and basic tissue processes, such as perfusion, can continue to operate wit
Contact: Jennifer Cronin
University of Iowa