Tumor cell proliferation is dependent upon concurrent growth of a supporting vasculature. This study aims to characterize the structural features of the microvasculature within a primary tumor model. There were 22 colon tumors induced in 16 rats by repeated administration of dimethylhydrazine. A cast of the microvessels was prepared by intraarterial administration of acrylic resin (Mercox). After corrosion of the tissue, the cast was examined by scanning electron microscopy.

Tumors 2.6 to 12.0 mm in diameter were examined. Within polypoid carcinomas up to 5.7 mm in diameter, there were two distinct vascular zones, a luminal vascular zone continuous with the vasculature of normal mucosa and a central zone continuous with the normal submucosa and muscularis propria vessels. Within both vascular zones, the organization of microvessels had the same general pattern as in normal mucosa. However, in tumors with diameters >5.7 mm, the vasculature was seen to be disorganized and of a greater density than normal.

In the smallest tumors, few morphological changes were seen in the individual microvessels when compared to normal. However, with tumor growth, there was elongation and increased diameters of the microvessels within the tumor. Microvessels within the luminal zone of the tumors which could definitely be traced to veins had diameters of 50 to 100 µm (compared to 12 to 30 µm for normal venules). Individual microvessels varied in diameter along their course forming saccular dilations in places. Networks of frequently anastomosing microvessels were formed. Extravasation of resin occurred from some microvessels. Elongated vessels of uniform diameter which travel distances up to 2 mm without branching were seen and were probably arterioles.

These appearances indicate that there are two distinct stages of development of the vasculature within primary tumors, an early phase where the tumor is supplied by the preexisting host microvessels, followed by a phase of proliferation of new vessels with abnormal morphological characteristics.

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This study was supported in part by a grant from the Anti-Cancer Council of Victoria.

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