Tumor blood vessels supply nutrients and oxygen to tumor cells for their growth and provide routes for them to enter circulation. Thus, angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is essential for tumor progression and metastasis. Tumor endothelial cells (TECs) that cover the inner surfaces of tumor blood vessels reportedly show phenotypes distinct from those of their normal counterparts. As examples, TECs show cytogenetic abnormalities, resistance to anticancer drugs, activated proliferation and migration, and specific gene expression patterns. TECs contain stem-like cell populations, which means that the origin of TECs is heterogeneous. In addition, since some abnormal phenotypes in TECs are induced by factors in the tumor microenvironment, such as hypoxia and tumor cell-derived factors, phenotypic diversity in TECs may be caused in part by intratumoral heterogeneity. Recent studies have identified that the interaction of tumor cells and TECs by juxtacrine and paracrine signaling contributes to tumor malignancy. Understanding TEC abnormality and heterogeneity is important for treatment of cancers. This review provides an overview of the diversity of TECs and discusses the interaction between TECs and tumor cells in the tumor microenvironment.
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