Atherosclerosis: a cancer of the blood vessels?

J. S. Ross, N. E. Stagliano, M. J. Donovan, R. E. Breitbart, G. S. Ginsburg

Research output: Contribution to journalReview articlepeer-review

84 Scopus citations


A series of molecular pathways have in common a significant role in the pathogenesis and progression of atherosclerosis and cancer. Shared mechanisms implicated for both diseases include oxidative stress and the cellular damage that results from it, toxic metabolites produced by cigarette smoking, and increased dietary fat intake. Atherosclerosis may begin when an injury or infection mutates or transforms a single arterial smooth muscle cell in the progenitor of a proliferative clone, similar to the most widely held carcinogenesis theory. Cell proliferation regulatory pathways have been associated with plaque progression, stenosis, and restenosis after angioplasty and with cancer progression. Alterations in cell adhesion molecules have been linked to plaque formation and thrombosis and to tumor invasion and metastasis. Altered expression of proteases associated with thrombolysis has been implicated in atherosclerotic plaque expansion and hemorrhage and in the invasion and metastasis of malignant neoplasms. Ligand-growth factor receptor interactions have been associated with early atherosclerotic lesions and with cancer development and spread. Nuclear transcription factors have been associated with progression of both diseases. Angiogenesis modulators have been linked to plaque expansion and restenosis of atherosclerotic lesions and to local and metastatic tumor expansion.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)S97-107
JournalAmerican Journal of Clinical Pathology
Volume116 Suppl
StatePublished - Dec 2001
Externally publishedYes


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