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Neoplasia. 2001 Jan-Feb;3(1):53-61.

Cyclooxygenase-2 pathway correlates with VEGF expression in head and neck cancer. Implications for tumor angiogenesis and metastasis.

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Department of Oto-Neuro-Ophthalmologic Surgery, University of Florence, 50139 Florence, Italy.


We evaluated the role of COX-2 pathway in 35 head and neck cancers (HNCs) by analyzing COX-2 expression and prostaglandin E2 (PGE2) production in relation to tumor angiogenesis and lymph node metastasis. COX-2 activity was also correlated to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) mRNA and protein expression. COX-2 mRNA and protein expression was higher in tumor samples than in normal mucosa. PGE2 levels were higher in the tumor front zone in comparison with tumor core and normal mucosa (P<.0001). Specimens from patients with lymph node metastasis exhibited higher COX-2 protein expression (P=.0074), PGE2 levels (P=.0011) and microvessel density (P<.0001) than specimens from patients without metastasis. A significant correlation between COX-2 and tumor vascularization (r(s)=0.450, P=.007) as well as between COX-2 and microvessel density with VEGF expression in tumor tissues was found (r(s)=0.450, P=.007; r(s)=0.620, P=.0001, respectively). The induction of COX-2 mRNA and PGE2 synthesis by EGF and Escherichia coli lipopolysaccharide (LPS) in A-431 and SCC-9 cell lines, resulted in an increase in VEGF mRNA and protein production. Indomethacin and celecoxib reversed the EGF- and LPS-dependent COX-2, VEGF, and PGE2 increases. This study suggests a central role of COX-2 pathway in HNC angiogenesis by modulating VEGF production and indicates that COX-2 inhibitors may be useful in HNC treatment.

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