FEMX-I human malignant melanoma cells, originating from a lymph node metastasis in a patient, uniquely and selectively produced extrapulmonary metastases after i.v. injection of cells prepared from xenografts into adult, nude mice. After a lag time of approximately 50 days, metastases were observed in s.c. sites at the back and front of the neck, and in axilla and inguinal regions. Tumor colony formation in lungs were never detected. The interscapular tumors showed a close relationship to brown fat, partly infiltrating this tissue, whereas the other s.c. tumors seemed to be localized to lymph nodes. Mesenterial and mediastinal lymph node metastases were frequently found, together with retroperitoneal tumors along the spine. The normal cells of the adrenal medulla were often replaced by melanoma cells, whereas the cortical tissue was not affected. The conclusion that FEMX-I cells possess an inherent ability for tissue-specific metastasis formation is supported by the metastatic pattern seen after i.p. and intrasplenic injection, as well as after inoculation of the cells in the footpads of the mice. The relatively slowly growing FEMX-I tumors showed the same differentiated morphology as the patient's tumor, independent of the site of growth and the number of passages in the animals. The FEMX-I tumor was easily established as a cell line in vitro. Such cells showed a strongly reduced metastatic capacity, indicating that the in vitro growth conditions had induced alterations in the FEMX-I cells influencing their ability to form site-specific metastases, changes that were shown to be reversible. It is suggested that structures on the surface of the tumor cells, as well as growth factors in the host tissues, may be of importance for the observed tissue specificity. The FEMX-I melanoma, which, as a human tumor in nude mice, has a unique metastatic pattern, offers possibilities for investigating mechanisms involved in site-specific metastasis formation, as well as for testing effects of antimetastatic, chemotherapeutic, and immunotherapeutic agents against human extrapulmonary micro- and macrometastases.


Supported by the Norwegian Cancer Society.

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