Mechanisms underlying pathological angiogenesis in relation to hypoxia in tumor invasion and metastasis remain elusive. Here, we have developed a zebrafish tumor model that allows us to study the role of pathological angiogenesis under normoxia and hypoxia in arbitrating early events of the metastatic cascade at the single cell level. Under normoxia, implantation of a murine T241 fibrosarcoma into the perivitelline cavity of developing embryos of transgenic fli1:EGFP zebrafish did not result in significant dissemination, invasion, and metastasis. In marked contrast, under hypoxia substantial tumor cells disseminated from primary sites, invaded into neighboring tissues, and metastasized to distal parts of the fish body. Similarly, expression of the hypoxia-regulated angiogenic factor, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) to a high level resulted in tumor cell dissemination and metastasis, which correlated with increased tumor neovascularization. Inhibition of VEGF receptor signaling pathways by sunitinib or VEGFR2 morpholinos virtually completely ablated VEGF-induced tumor cell dissemination and metastasis. To the best of our knowledge, hypoxia- and VEGF-induced pathological angiogenesis in promoting tumor dissemination, invasion, and metastasis has not been described perviously at the single cell level. Our findings also shed light on molecular mechanisms of beneficial effects of clinically available anti-VEGF drugs for cancer therapy.
2009. Vol. 106, no 46, 19485-19490 p.