Immunohistochemical demonstration of proliferating lymphatic vessels in colorectal carcinoma and its clinicopathological significance
Lymphatic metastasis to the regional lymph nodes through the lymphatic vessels is an important indicator of poor prognosis in many types of malignant tumors. Recently, much attention has been paid to lymphangiogenesis for its possible role on tumor progression in various carcinomas. However, morphological evidence that lymphatic vessels actively proliferate in colorectal carcinoma has not been reported. Here, we first devised a triple immunostaining method to detect proliferating lymphatic vessels utilizing antibody to Ki-67 antigen as a marker of cell proliferation, antibody to cytokeratin as an epithelial cell marker, and antibody to podoplanin as a lymphatic vessel-specific marker. Ki-67/podoplanin-immunoreactivity enabled us to identify proliferating lymphatic vessels, while cytokeratin immunoreactivity allowed us to distinguish proliferating lymphatic vessels from Ki-67/cytokeratin-positive carcinoma cells in lymphatic lumens. Analyzing 64 colorectal carcinoma patients' samples using this technique, we showed that both lymphatic vessel density and proliferating activity of lymphatic vessels were significantly increased in colorectal carcinoma tissues compared with their normal counterparts. We then examined the correlation between the degree of lymphangiogenesis and patients' prognosis or clinicopathological variables, but no statistically significant differences were obtained in these analyses. Thus, these results combined together indicate that extensive lymphangiogenesis occurs in colorectal carcinoma, but that the degree of lymphangiogenesis alone is not an independent prognostic factor for this disease.