Open Access Research

Vascular endothelial growth factor regulates melanoma cell adhesion and growth in the bone marrow microenvironment via tumor cyclooxygenase-2

María Valcárcel1, Lorea Mendoza2, José-Julio Hernández2, Teresa Carrascal2, Clarisa Salado1, Olatz Crende2 and Fernando Vidal-Vanaclocha3*

Author Affiliations

1 Innoprot SL, Bizkaia Technology Park, Derio, Bizkaia, Spain

2 Basque Country University School of Medicine and Dentistry, Department of Cellular Biology and Histology, Leioa, Bizkaia, Spain

3 CEU-San Pablo University School of Medicine and Hospital of Madrid Scientific Foundation, Institute of Applied Molecular Medicine (IMMA), Madrid, Spain

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Journal of Translational Medicine 2011, 9:142  doi:10.1186/1479-5876-9-142

Published: 25 August 2011



Human melanoma frequently colonizes bone marrow (BM) since its earliest stage of systemic dissemination, prior to clinical metastasis occurrence. However, how melanoma cell adhesion and proliferation mechanisms are regulated within bone marrow stromal cell (BMSC) microenvironment remain unclear. Consistent with the prometastatic role of inflammatory and angiogenic factors, several studies have reported elevated levels of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) in melanoma although its pathogenic role in bone marrow melanoma metastasis is unknown.


Herein we analyzed the effect of cyclooxygenase-2 (COX-2) inhibitor celecoxib in a model of generalized BM dissemination of left cardiac ventricle-injected B16 melanoma (B16M) cells into healthy and bacterial endotoxin lipopolysaccharide (LPS)-pretreated mice to induce inflammation. In addition, B16M and human A375 melanoma (A375M) cells were exposed to conditioned media from basal and LPS-treated primary cultured murine and human BMSCs, and the contribution of COX-2 to the adhesion and proliferation of melanoma cells was also studied.


Mice given one single intravenous injection of LPS 6 hour prior to cancer cells significantly increased B16M metastasis in BM compared to untreated mice; however, administration of oral celecoxib reduced BM metastasis incidence and volume in healthy mice, and almost completely abrogated LPS-dependent melanoma metastases. In vitro, untreated and LPS-treated murine and human BMSC-conditioned medium (CM) increased VCAM-1-dependent BMSC adherence and proliferation of B16M and A375M cells, respectively, as compared to basal medium-treated melanoma cells. Addition of celecoxib to both B16M and A375M cells abolished adhesion and proliferation increments induced by BMSC-CM. TNFα and VEGF secretion increased in the supernatant of LPS-treated BMSCs; however, anti-VEGF neutralizing antibodies added to B16M and A375M cells prior to LPS-treated BMSC-CM resulted in a complete abrogation of both adhesion- and proliferation-stimulating effect of BMSC on melanoma cells. Conversely, recombinant VEGF increased adherence to BMSC and proliferation of both B16M and A375M cells, compared to basal medium-treated cells, while addition of celecoxib neutralized VEGF effects on melanoma. Recombinant TNFα induced B16M production of VEGF via COX-2-dependent mechanism. Moreover, exogenous PGE2 also increased B16M cell adhesion to immobilized recombinant VCAM-1.


We demonstrate the contribution of VEGF-induced tumor COX-2 to the regulation of adhesion- and proliferation-stimulating effects of TNFα, from endotoxin-activated bone marrow stromal cells, on VLA-4-expressing melanoma cells. These data suggest COX-2 neutralization as a potential anti-metastatic therapy in melanoma patients at high risk of systemic and bone dissemination due to intercurrent infectious and inflammatory diseases.