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Oncogene. 1999 Aug 26;18(34):4860-9.

Modulation of in vivo growth of thyroid tumor-derived cell lines by sense and antisense vascular endothelial growth factor gene.

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Istituto Nazionale dei Tumori, Fondazione Pascale, Via M Semmola, 80131 Naples, Italy.


Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF) is a potent mitogen for endothelial cells in vitro and promotes neo-angiogenesis in vivo. VEGF overexpression occurs in most human malignancies including thyroid carcinomas in which elevated VEGF expression is associated with a high tumorigenic potential. To investigate the role of VEGF in angiogenesis associated with development of thyroid carcinomas, we constitutively expressed VEGF121 into a poorly tumorigenic cell line (NPA) expressing minimal levels of endogenous VEGF. Here we report that VEGF overexpressing NPA cells showed the same growth potential as untransfected NPA in vitro but formed well-vascularized tumors when injected subcutaneously into nude mice with markedly reduced latency compared to parental cells. A complementary approach was to suppress VEGF expression in a highly tumorigenic anaplastic cell line (ARO) by the transfection of an antisense construct. Antisense-transfected ARO cells expressed reduced constitutive levels of VEGF, showed the same growth potential as untransfected ARO cells in vitro and formed small tumors characterized by minimal vascularization, extensive necrosis and longer latency compared to parental or vector-transfected ARO cells in vivo. Finally, we investigated the expression of both VEGF tyrosine kinase receptors (Flt-1 and Flk-1/KDR) in tumor specimens by RT - PCR. Expression of (Flt-1 and Flk-1/KDR) was low in tissue specimens derived from NPA tumors, but was found enhanced in NPA VEGF tumors; conversely, the expression of VEGF receptors was high in tissue specimens derived from ARO tumors but was decreased in tumors derived from VEGF depleted ARO cells. These results clearly demonstrate that VEGF indirectly promotes the growth of thyroid tumors by stimulating angiogenesis.

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