Myeloid-Derived Lymphatic Endothelial Cell Progenitors Significantly Contribute to Lymphatic Metastasis in Clinical Breast Cancer

Lisa Volk-Draper, Radhika Patel, Nihit Bhattarai, Jie Yang, Andrew Wilber, David DeNardo, Sophia Ran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

21 Scopus citations


Lymphatic metastasis is a high-impact prognostic factor for mortality of breast cancer (BC) patients, and it directly depends on tumor-associated lymphatic vessels. We previously reported that lipopolysaccharide-induced inflammatory lymphangiogenesis is strongly promoted by myeloid-derived lymphatic endothelial cell progenitors (M-LECPs) derived from the bone marrow (BM). As BC recruits massive numbers of provascular myeloid cells, we hypothesized that M-LECPs, within this recruited population, are specifically programmed to promote tumor lymphatics that increase lymph node metastasis. In support of this hypothesis, high levels of M-LECPs were found in peripheral blood and tumor tissues of BC patients. Moreover, the density of M-LECPs and lymphatic vessels positive for myeloid marker proteins strongly correlated with patient node status. It was also established that tumor M-LECPs coexpress lymphatic-specific, stem/progenitor and M2-type macrophage markers that indicate their BM hematopoietic-myeloid origin and distinguish them from mature lymphatic endothelial cells, tumor-infiltrating lymphoid cells, and tissue-resident macrophages. Using four orthotopic BC models, we show that mouse M-LECPs are similarly recruited to tumors and integrate into preexisting lymphatics. Finally, we demonstrate that adoptive transfer of in vitro differentiated M-LECPs, but not naïve or nondifferentiated BM cells, significantly increased metastatic burden in ipsilateral lymph nodes. These data support a causative role of BC-induced lymphatic progenitors in tumor lymphangiogenesis and suggest molecular targets for their inhibition.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)2269-2292
Number of pages24
JournalAmerican Journal of Pathology
Issue number11
StatePublished - Nov 2019


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