Similar to growing and metabolically active tissues, tumors require a dense vasculature to gain access to oxygen and nutrients. However, blood vessels in tumors differ from vessels in normal tissues in many respects. In particular, the tumor vasculature is in an active state of angiogenesis or vasculogenesis, and it is immature and leaky. Blood vessels are multicellular tubes formed by polarized endothelial cells, which face the patent vascular lumen with their apical cell surface, whereas their basal cell surface faces extracellular matrix on the outside of the vessels. The same cell polarity can be found in other tubular structures, such as in the bronchial tubes of the lung or the kidney tubules. In contrast, blood vessels in invertebrates often have a vascular lumen lined by basal cell surfaces. These vessels are often formed by a process named ‘ancestral vascular tube formation’. Here, we discuss the hypothesis that the supply of tumors with blood can be achieved by both endothelial cell-lined tubes as well as tubes formed by the tumor cells themselves using the ancestral vascular tube formation mechanism. We discuss this hypothesis with a particular focus on gastrointestinal tumors.
©2009 by Walter de Gruyter Berlin New York