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Br J Cancer. 2006 Jul 3;95(1):75-9. Epub 2006 Jun 6.

The balance of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 mRNA is a predictor of lymph node metastasis in non-small cell lung cancer.

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  • 1Department of Oncological and Regenerative Surgery, University of Tokushima School of Medicine; 3-18-15 Kuramotocho, Tokushima 770-8503, Japan.


A positive association between vascular endothelial growth factor-C (VEGF-C) expression and lymph node metastasis has been reported in several cancers. However, the relationship of VEGF-C and lymph node metastasis in some cancers, including non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC), is controversial. We evaluated the VEGF-C and vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-3 (VEGFR-3) expression in NSCLC samples from patients who had undergone surgery between 1998 and 2002 using real-time quantitative RT-PCR and immunohistochemical staining. We failed to find a positive association between VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 mRNA expression and lymph node metastasis in NSCLC. An immunohistological study demonstrated that VEGF-C was expressed not only in cancer cells, but also in macrophages in NSCLC, and that VEGFR-3 was expressed in cancer cells, macrophages, type II pneumocytes and lymph vessels. The VEGF-C/VEGFR-3 ratio of the node-positive group was significantly higher than that of the node-negative group. Immunohistochemical staining showed that VEGFR-3 was mainly expressed in cancer cells. The immunoreactivity of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 was roughly correlated to the mRNA levels of VEGF-C and VEGFR-3 in real-time PCR. VEGF-C mRNA alone has no positive association with lymph node metastasis in NSCLC. The VEGF-C/VEGFR-3 ratio was positively associated with lymph node metastasis in NSCLC. This suggests that VEGF-C promotes lymph node metastasis while being influenced by the strength of the VEGF-C autocrine loop, and the VEGF-C/VEGFR-3 ratio can be a useful predictor of lymph node metastasis in NSCLC.

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