Bone marrow-derived stromal cells (BMSC) possess a population of vascular progenitor cells that enable them to acquire a histology and immunophenotype coherent with endothelial cells (EC). Recent evidence indicates that a hypoxic environment such as that encountered in tumor masses regulates BMSC angiogenic properties by pathways that remain to be defined. It is also unclear as to what extent these marrow-derived precursor cells could contribute to the growth of endothelium-lined vessels at the vicinity of tumor masses. In this study, we found that BMSC exhibited the ability to generate three-dimensional capillary-like networks on Matrigel, and that this property was up-regulated by growth factors-enriched conditioned media isolated from several tumor-derived cell lines. In particular, basic fibroblast growth factor, a key mediator of angiogenesis, was found to be the most potent growth factor for inducing BMSC proliferation, migration, and tubulogenesis. The setup of a new two-dimensional in vitro co-culture assay further showed that BMSC were massively recruited when cultured in the presence of either cancerous or differentiated EC lines. In vivo, subcutaneous co-injection of BMSC with U-87 glioma cells in nude mice resulted in the formation of highly vascularized tumors, where BMSC differentiated into CD31-positive cells and localized at the lumen of vascular structures. Our data suggest that BMSC could be recruited at the sites of active tumor neovascularization through paracrine regulation of their angiogenic properties. These observations may have crucial implications in the development of novel therapies using BMSC engineered to secrete anti-cancerous agents and to antagonize tumor progression. © 2004 Wiley-Liss, Inc.
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