HIF-1alpha determines the metastatic potential of gastric cancer cells


  • N. Rohwer
  • S. Lobitz
  • K. Daskalow
  • T. Joens
  • M. Vieth
  • P.M. Schlag
  • W. Kemmner
  • B. Wiedenmann
  • T. Cramer
  • M. Hoecker


  • British Journal of Cancer


  • Br J Canc 100 (5): 772-781


  • Gastric adenocarcinoma is characterised by rapid emergence of systemic metastases, resulting in poor prognosis due to vanished curative treatment options. Better understanding of the molecular basis of gastric cancer spread is needed to design innovative treatments. The transcription factor HIF-1alpha (hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha) is frequently overexpressed in human gastric cancer, and inhibition of HIF-1alpha has proven antitumour efficacy in rodent models, whereas the relevance of HIF-1alpha for the metastatic phenotype of gastric adenocarcinoma remains elusive. Therefore, we have conducted a comprehensive analysis of the role of HIF-1alpha for pivotal metastasis-associated processes of human gastric cancer. Immunhistochemistry for HIF-1alpha showed specific staining at the invading tumour edge in 90% of human gastric cancer samples, whereas normal gastric tissue was negative and only a minority of early gastric cancers (T1 tumours) showed specific staining. Hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha-deficient cells showed a significant reduction of migratory, invasive and adhesive properties in vitro. Furthermore, the HIF-1alpha-inhibitor 2-methoxy-estradiol significantly reduced metastatic properties of gastric cancer cells. The accentuated expression at the invading edge together with the in vitro requirement of HIF-1alpha for migration, invasion and adherence argues for a pivotal role of HIF-1alpha in local invasion and, ultimately, systemic tumour spread. These results warrant the exploration of HIF-1alpha-inhibiting substances in clinical treatment studies of advanced gastric cancer.