Necrosis correlates with high vascular density and focal macrophage infiltration in invasive carcinoma of the breast.
Leek RD., Landers RJ., Harris AL., Lewis CE.
Necrosis is a common feature of invasive carcinoma of the breast and is caused by chronic ischaemia leading to infarction. Although necrosis was previously assumed to be due to a generally poor blood supply in the tumour, in this study we show that it is present in tumours with focal areas of high vascular density situated away from the actual sites of necrosis. This may account, in part, for the previous observation that necrosis is linked to poor prognosis in this disease. Highly angiogenic tumours often display blood vessel shunting from one tumour area to another, which further exacerbates ischaemia and the formation of tumour necrosis. We have recently demonstrated that high focal microphage infiltration into breast tumours is significantly associated with increased tumour angiogenesis and poor prognosis and that the macrophages accumulate in poorly vascularized, hypoxic areas within breast tumours. In order to investigate the interactions of macrophages with chronic ischaemia (as reflected by the presence of necrosis) and angiogenesis in breast tumours, we quantified the levels of these three biological parameters in a series of 109 consecutive invasive breast carcinomas. We found that the degree of tumour necrosis was correlated with both microphage infiltration (Mann-Whitney U, P-value = 0.0009; chi-square, P-value = 0.01) and angiogenesis (Mann-Whitney U P-value = 0.0008, chi square P-value = 0.03). It was also observed that necrosis was a feature of tumours possessing an aggressive phenotype, i.e. high tumour grade (chi-square, P-value < 0.001), larger size (Mann-Whitney U, P-value = 0.003) and low oestrogen receptor status (Mann-Whitney U, P-value = 0.008; chi-square, P-value < 0.008). We suggest, therefore, that aggressive tumours rapidly outgrow their vascular supply in certain areas, leading to areas of prolonged hypoxia within the tumour and, subsequently, to necrosis. This, in turn, may attract macrophages into the tumour, which then contribute to the angiogenic process, giving rise to an association between high levels of angiogenesis and extensive necrosis.