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Cancer Res. 2002 Jun 15;62(12):3402-7.

A critical role for ras-mediated, epidermal growth factor receptor-dependent angiogenesis in mouse skin carcinogenesis.

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  • 1Project on Cell and Molecular Biology and Gene Therapy, Centro de Investigaciones Energéticas, Medioambientales y Tecnológicas, 28040 Madrid, Spain.


Epidermal growth factor receptor (EGFR) plays a critical role in epidermal biology. Abnormal EGFR function has been described in epithelial tumors including those induced by two-stage chemical carcinogenesis in mouse skin. A large body of evidence indicates that in this model, activation of Ha-ras is the critical event in papilloma formation, a process that involves epidermal proliferation and stroma remodeling, which includes angiogenesis. This study reports that activated Ha-ras results in a dramatic induction of EGFR in epidermal tumor cells and provides experimental evidence that EGFR signaling is responsible for Ha-ras-dependent vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induction, as well as for the repression of other angiogenic factors such as angiopoietin 1. The pivotal role of functional EGFR in throwing the angiogenic switch necessary for tumor growth was confirmed by s.c. injection of immunodeficient mice with epidermal tumor cells carrying a dominant negative (dn) EGFR and by in vivo chemical skin carcinogenesis assays in transgenic mice expressing the same dn EGFR form in the epidermis. Immunohistochemical analysis of the tumors obtained by both ex vivo and in vivo approaches showed that dn EGFR expression abolished the changes in blood vessels that occurred during tumor progression. A strong reduction of VEGF expression in dn EGFR tumors appears to be the key event responsible for angiogenesis and tumor growth suppression. The apoptotic rate was increased, and Akt activity was decreased, suggesting that impaired nutrient and oxygen supply might contribute to diminished cell survival in dn EGFR tumors. Support for this mechanism is provided by the fact that the ectopic expression of VEGF in dn EGFR-expressing tumor cell lines restored tumor growth capacity. Although ras activation might suffice for epidermal transformation and the stroma-remodeling events of tumor induction, such effects may not be operative without a functional upstream EGFR. It is tempting to speculate that EGFR family members may function as angiogenic regulators in other epithelial tumors such as those of the colon, breast, and prostate, reinforcing their value as targets for therapeutic intervention.

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