Tumor vascular remodeling by thrombospondin-1 enhances drug delivery and antineoplastic activity

Denise Pinessi, Andrea Resovi, Fabio Sangalli, Lavinia Morosi, Lorena Zentilin, Patrizia Borsotti, Elena Carlessi, Alice Passoni, Enrico Davoli, Dorina Belotti, Raffaella Giavazzi, Mauro Giacca, Giovanni Valbusa, Alexander Berndt, Massimo Zucchetti, Giulia Taraboletti*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

2 Citations (Scopus)


The disorganized and inefficient tumor vasculature is a major obstacle to the delivery and efficacy of antineoplastic treatments. Antiangiogenic agents can normalize the tumor vessels, improving vessel function and boosting the distribution and activity of chemotherapy. The type III repeats (T3R) domain of thrombospondin-1 contains different potential antiangiogenic sequences. We therefore hypothesized that it might affect the tumor vasculature. Ectopic expression of the T3R domain by the tumor cells or by the host, or administration of recombinant T3R, delayed the in vivo growth of experimental tumors. Tumors presented marked reorganization of the vasculature, with abundant but smaller vessels, associated with substantially less necrosis. Mechanistically, the use of truncated forms of the domain, containing different active sequences, pointed to the FGF2/FGFR/ERK axis as a target for T3R activity. Along with reduced necrosis, the expression of T3R promoted tumor distribution of chemotherapy (paclitaxel), with a higher drug concentration and more homogeneous distribution, as assessed by HPLC and MALDI imaging mass spectrometry. T3R-expressing tumors were more responsive to paclitaxel and cisplatin. This study shows that together with its known role as a canonical inhibitor of angiogenesis, thrombospondin-1 can also remodel tumor blood vessels, affecting the morphological and functional properties of the tumor vasculature. The ability of T3R to reduce tumor growth and improve the response to chemotherapy opens new perspectives for therapeutic strategies based on T3R to be used in combination therapies.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)22-36
Number of pages15
JournalMatrix Biology
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 12 Oct 2021


  • Angiogenesis
  • Drug distribution
  • Matricellular proteins
  • Tumor microenvironment


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