Folberg R, Maniotis A. Vasculogenic mimicry. APMIS 2004;112:508–25.
The term vasculogenic mimicry describes the formation of fluid-conducting channels by highly invasive and genetically dysregulated tumor cells. Two distinctive types of vasculogenic mimicry have been described. Vasculogenic mimicry of the tubular type may be confused morphologically with endothelial cell-lined blood vessels. Vasculogenic mimicry of the patterned matrix type in no way resembles blood vessels morphologically or topologically. Matrix proteins such as laminin, heparan sulfate proteoglycan, and collagens IV and VI have been identified in these patterns. The patterned matrix anastomoses with blood vessels, and systemically injected tracers co-localize to these patterns. Vasculogenic mimicry of the patterned matrix type has been identified in uveal, cutaneous and mucous membrane melanomas, inflammatory and ductal breast carcinoma, ovarian and prostatic carcinoma, and soft tissue sarcomas, including synovial sarcoma rhabdomyosarcoma, osteosarcoma, and pheochromocytoma. Because the microcirculation of many tumors may be heterogeneous – including incorporated or co-opted vessels, angiogenic vessels, mosaic vessels, and vasculogenic mimicry of the tubular and patterned matrix types – therapeutic regimens that target angiogenesis alone may be ineffective against highly invasive tumors that contain patterned matrices. Vasculogenic mimicry provides an opportunity to investigate the interrelationships between the genetically dysregulated invasive tumor cell, the microenvironment, and the malignant switch.
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