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Cancer Sci. 2004 Feb;95(2):136-41.

Correlation of EPHA2 overexpression with high microvessel count in human primary colorectal cancer.

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First Department of Medicine, Hamamatsu University School of Medicine, Hamamatsu 431-3192, Japan.


Evidence suggests that the erythropoietin-producing hepatocellular (EPH) receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs) and their ephrin (EFN) ligands are involved in human carcinogenesis. Expression of two of them, EFNA1 ligand and its receptor, EPHA2, has been proposed to contribute to tumor-induced neovascularization. Colorectal cancers were examined for expressions of EPHA2 and its ligand EFNA1 by semi-quantitative RT-PCR, and double-immunostained for EPHA2 and CD34. Microvessels in the tumors were counted. Double-staining was also performed in 25 cases of adenoma with focal cancer for comparison. Trends of overexpression of both EPHA2 and EFNA1 was found in tumor tissue compared to the corresponding normal tissue in the same specimen [22/37 (59.5%) and 25/37 (67.5%), respectively; P = 0.100 for EPHA2 and P = 0.009 for EFNA1]. Overexpression of EPHA2 and EFNA1 was noted more frequently in the early stage than in the late stage [EPHA2, 15/21 (71.4%) vs. 7/16 (43.8%), P = 0.007; EFNA1, 15/21 (71.4%) vs. 10/16 (62.5%), P = 0.007]. Both EPHA2 and EFNA1 were more frequently overexpressed in smaller tumors (less than 5 cm) than in larger tumors [EPHA2, 15/21 (71.4%) vs. 7/16 (43.8%), P = 0.017; EFNA1, 16/21 (76.2%) vs. 8/16 (50%), P = 0.001]. Tumors less than 5 cm in diameter and in stages I and II were significantly more likely to overexpress EPHA2 and EFNA1 (P = 0.001 for EPHA2, P = 0.001 for EFNA1). Microvessel counts (MVCs) after immunostaining for CD34 were significantly correlated (r = 0.343, P = 0.037) with overexpression of EPHA2. EPHA2-expressing focal cancer also surrounded microvessels in adenomas with focal cancers. These findings suggest an involvement of EPHA2 in colon carcinogenesis, mainly in stages I and II, and probably through their effect on microvessel induction.

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