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Spontaneous fusion between cancer cells and endothelial cells


Endothelial cells line the inside of blood and lymphatic vessels, and cancer cells must cross this barrier, first to gain access to the circulation, and, second, to exit and metastasize. How this occurs is incompletely understood. We now demonstrate that human cancer cells are able to fuse with endothelial cells to form hybrid cells displaying proteins and chromosomal markers characteristic of both parent cells. The hybrid cells are viable and capable of undergoing mitosis. Fusions between cancer cells and endothelial cells were shown to occur both in vitro, in co-cultures of human breast cancer cells and endothelial cells, and in vivo, following intravascular dissemination of human breast cancer cells in nude mice. These observations demonstrate a new type of cancer-endothelial cell interaction that may be of fundamental importance to the process of metastasis.

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Correspondence to L.-I. Larsson.

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Received 10 May 2004; received after revision 21 June 2004; accepted 2 July 2004

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Mortensen, K., Lichtenberg, J., Thomsen, P.D. et al. Spontaneous fusion between cancer cells and endothelial cells. CMLS, Cell. Mol. Life Sci. 61, 2125–2131 (2004).

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  • Cancer
  • endothelial cell
  • fusion
  • FISH
  • metastasis