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Leukemia. 2004 May;18(5):926-33.

Activation of the HIF pathway in childhood ALL, prognostic implications of VEGF.

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  • 1Department of Pediatric Oncology/Hematology, Medical University at Berlin, Berlin, Germany.

Erratum in

  • Leukemia. 2004 Jun;18(6):1164. Stackelberg Av [corrected to von Stackelberg A].


Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 (HIF-1) controls angiogenesis and glycolysis, two leading characteristics of solid tumor invasion, metastasis, and lethality. Increased angiogenesis is also found in the bone marrow (BM) of leukemias. Less is known in leukemia about the role of HIF-1 and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), the most important proangiogenic target gene of HIF-1. We show by immunohistochemistry that the oxygen-regulated component of HIF-1 (HIF-1alpha) is overexpressed in clusters of leukemic cells in BM specimens of childhood acute lymphoblastic leukemia (ALL) and absent in biopsies of normal BM. Half the HIF-1alpha-positive ALL biopsies exhibited VEGF coexpression. Among 96 children with relapsed ALL, diagnostic BM aspirates with high VEGF mRNA levels were associated with a significantly lower probability of event-free survival at 3 years (0.31+/-0.08 vs 0.65+/-0.07, P=0.003). Those with poor molecular response to therapy (evaluated by MRD assessment) had 2.2-fold higher VEGF levels than those responding well to chemotherapy (P=0.005). In conclusion, the data demonstrate activation of the HIF pathway in the BM of ALL patients and indicate that the expression of HIF target genes, such as VEGF, play an important role in leukemia progression, therapy response, and outcome.

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