The platelet contribution to cancer progression


Chris E. Holmes, Department of Medicine, Hematology and Oncology, University of Vermont, Burlington, VT 05401, USA.
Tel.: +1 802 656 0302; fax: +1 802 656 0390.


Summary.  Traditionally viewed as major cellular components in hemostasis and thrombosis, the contribution of platelets to the progression of cancer is an emerging area of research interest. Complex interactions between tumor cells and circulating platelets play an important role in cancer growth and dissemination, and a growing body of evidence supports a role for physiologic platelet receptors and platelet agonists in cancer metastases and angiogenesis. Platelets provide a procoagulant surface facilitating amplification of cancer-related coagulation, and can be recruited to shroud tumor cells, thereby shielding them from immune responses, and facilitate cancer growth and dissemination. Experimental blockade of key platelet receptors, such as GP1b/IX/V, GPIIbIIIa and GPVI, has been shown to attenuate metastases. Platelets are also recognized as dynamic reservoirs of proangiogenic and anti-angiogenic proteins that can be manipulated pharmacologically. A bidirectional relationship between platelets and tumors is also seen, with evidence of ‘tumor conditioning’ of platelets. The platelet as a reporter of malignancy and a targeted delivery system for anticancer therapy has also been proposed. The development of platelet inhibitors that influence malignancy progression and clinical testing of currently available antiplatelet drugs represents a promising area of targeted cancer therapy.