Scatter factor stimulates tumor growth and tumor angiogenesis in human breast cancers in the mammary fat pads of nude mice

Katrin Lamszus, Liang Jin, Alexander Fuchs, Eric Shi, Soheli Chowdhury, Yan Yao, Peter J. Polverini, John Laterra, Itzhak D. Goldberg, Eliot M. Rosen

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85 Scopus citations


Scatter factor (SF) (also known as hepatocyte growth factor) is a plasminogen-related growth factor that induces tumor cell motility, invasion, and angiogenesis. Its receptor is a tyrosine kinase encoded by c-met, a protooncogene. Human breast cancer cells express SF and c-met in vivo; but human breast cancer cell lines do not produce SF in vitro. To determine whether SF can modulate the in vivo growth of human breast cancers within a natural mammary environment, we studied the orthotopic growth of SF- transfected (SF+) versus control (SF-) clones of MDAMB231 human mammary carcinoma cells in the mammary fat pads of athymic nude mice. SF+ clones expressed SF mRNA and produced very high titers of SF protein, whereas SF- clones did not express SF mRNA or produce detectable SF protein. Two SF+ clones (21 and 29) showed significantly increased tumor growth rates, reaching 3- to 4-fold larger primary tumor volumes and weights by time of killing (p < 0.001), as well as higher rates of axillary lymph node metastasis (p < 0.02), as compared with two SF - clones (32 and 34). In contrast, in vitro proliferation rates, two-dimensional colony formation, and soft agar colony formation were no greater in SF + than in SF-clones. We performed further studies to investigate the discrepancy between the in vivo and in vitro growth results. Tumor extracts from SF+ clone (21 + 29) tumors had 50-fold higher SF content than did SF- clone (32 + 34) tumors, confirming high-level SF expression in vivo in SF + tumors. Immunostaining of tumor sections for proliferating cell nuclear antigen revealed only a modest increase in the proportion of cycling cells in SF + versus SF- tumors (70% versus 60%, respectively). The terminal deoxytransferase-labeling index was equally low (approximately 1%) in SF+ and SF- tumors, suggesting that apoptosis was not responsible for the slower growth of SF tumors. However, SF + tumors had significantly higher tumor microvessel densities than SF- tumors (p < 0.001). Moreover, there were much higher titers of chemotactic activity for microvascular endothelial cells in cell-conditioned media and primary tumor extracts from SF+ clones as compared with SF- clones. As demonstrated using the rat cornea assay, there was more angiogenic activity in SF + tumor extracts than in SF- extracts. The increased chemotactic and angiogenic activities in SF+ tumor extracts were not explained by secondary alterations in the content of the angiogenic mediator, vascular endothelial growth factor, or the antiangiogenic glycoprotein, thrombospondin-1; and those activities were neutralized using an anti-SF monoclonal antibody. These findings suggest that SF promotes the orthotopic growth of human breast cancers, at least in part, by stimulating tumor angiogenesis.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)339-353
Number of pages15
JournalLaboratory Investigation
Issue number3
StatePublished - Mar 1997

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Pathology and Forensic Medicine
  • Molecular Biology
  • Cell Biology


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