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Clin Cancer Res. 2000 Jun;6(6):2431-9.

Expression of vascular endothelial growth factors A, B, C, and D and their relationships to lymph node status in lung adenocarcinoma.

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  • 1Pathology Division, National Cancer Center Research Institute, Tokyo, Japan.


Vascular endothelial growth factors (VEGFs) C and D are novel members of the VEGF family that show some selectivity toward lymphatic endothelial cells. Recent studies suggest that VEGF-C may be involved in lymphangiogenesis and spread of cancer cells via lymphatic vessels. However, whether other VEGF family members play a role in lymph node metastasis is largely unknown. The aim of the present study was to explore whether expressions of VEGF-A, VEGF-B, VEGF-C, and VEGF-D are correlated with lymph node status in lung adenocarcinoma. Total RNA was isolated from 60 surgical specimens of lung adenocarcinoma with (n = 27) or without (n = 33) lymph node metastasis. The relative mRNA abundance of VEGF-A, VEGF-B, VEGF-C, and VEGF-D was measured by real-time reverse transcription-PCR analysis based on TaqMan fluorescence methodology. We found that, as single factors, expression of none of the four VEGF family members clearly correlated with the presence of lymph node metastasis. The only tendency noted was for higher VEGF-B and VEGF-C and lower VEGF-D levels in the node-positive group. However, two-way scatterplot analysis revealed that tumors with lymph node metastasis were associated with a pattern of low VEGF-D and high VEGF-A, VEGF-B, or VEGF-C, such that the ratios of VEGF-D:VEGF-A, VEGF-D:VEGF-B, or VEGF-D:VEGF-C were significantly lower in the node-positive group. Strikingly, none of the 11 tumors with high VEGF-D levels metastasized to lymph nodes. Furthermore, a low VEGF-D:VEGF-C ratio correlated with the presence of lymphatic invasion, and six of seven tumors with a pattern of very high expression of VEGF-C and low expression of VEGF-D displayed lymph vessel invasion that extended along the bronchovascular tree beyond the main tumor. Finally, levels of VEGF-A, but not VEGF-B or VEGF-C, were higher in tumors with large nodal metastasis (> or = 1 cm) than in those with small (< 1 cm) nodal metastasis. These results support the hypothesis that two VEGF family members are involved in lymph node metastasis at two distinct steps; VEGF-C facilitates entry of cancer cells into the lymph vasculature, whereas VEGF-A promotes the growth of metastatic tumor through angiogenesis. The results also suggest that the balance between VEGF-C and VEGF-D could be important rather than the level of VEGF-C alone. Whether a low VEGF-D level plays a causative role in lymph node metastasis requires further investigation.

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