Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), the commonly used over-the-counter agents, were shown to inhibit tumor metastasis into lymph nodes in a recent study.

Lymphangiogenic growth factor VEGF-D promotes cancer spread by means of the lymphatic system, a crucial step in metastasis. In investigating how lymphatic vessels are altered during VEGF-D-driven tumor metastasis, a team led by Steven A. Stacker, associate professor at the Peter MacCallum Cancer Centre in Melbourne, Australia, identified a link between VEGF-D signaling and prostaglandin pathways.

Stacker and colleagues found that in VEGF-D-driven tumor spread, VEGF-D modulates prostaglandin levels to regulate lymphatic vessel dilation. NSAIDs, which are known inhibitors of prostaglandin synthesis, reduced lymphatic vessel dilation and, therefore, inhibited tumor metastasis.

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“This key interaction between lymphangiogenic factors and prostaglandins reveals a mechanism for preparing collecting vessels for tumor cell dissemination, and a mechanism by which NSAIDs reduce lymphogenous metastasis,” wrote the researchers in Cancer Cell (2012;21:181-195). “Collecting lymphatic vessels may therefore constitute a therapeutic target for prevention and treatment of metastatic disease.”