Myofibroblast activation in colorectal cancer lymph node metastases.
Yeung TM., Buskens C., Wang LM., Mortensen NJ., Bodmer WF.
BACKGROUND: Myofibroblasts have an important role in regulating the normal colorectal stem cell niche. While the activation of myofibroblasts in primary colorectal cancers has been previously described, myofibroblast activation in lymph node metastases has not been described before. METHODS: Paraffin-embedded lymph node sections from patients with macrometastases, micrometastases and isolated tumour cells were stained to identify myofibroblasts and to characterise the distribution of different cell types in tumour-containing lymph nodes. The extent of myofibroblast presence was quantified and compared with the size of the metastasis and degree of proliferation and differentiation of the cancer cells. RESULTS: We show substantial activation of myofibroblasts in the presence of colorectal metastases in lymph nodes, which is intimately associated with glandular structures, both in micro- and macrometastases. The degree of activation is positively associated with the size of the metastases and the proportion of Ki67+ve cancer cells, and negatively associated with the degree of enterocyte differentiation as measured by CK20 expression. CONCLUSION: The substantial activation of myofibroblasts in tumour-containing lymph nodes strongly suggests that these metastatic cancer cells are still significantly dependent on their microenvironment. Further understanding of these epithelial-mesenchymal interactions could lead to the development of new therapies in metastatic disease.