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Cancer Res. 2004 Jun 15;64(12):4373-7.

Assessing tumor angiogenesis: increased circulating VE-cadherin RNA in patients with cancer indicates viability of circulating endothelial cells.

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  • 1Division of Hematology-Oncology, Department of Medicine, European Institute of Oncology, Milan, Italy.


No markers are currently available to indicate the angiogenic profile of a specific malignant disease nor to predict response to antiangiogenic therapies. Nevertheless, many different antiangiogenic drugs are presently being tested in many clinical trials, with an obvious scarcity of useful endpoints for treatment outcome beside survival. By means of a quantitative reverse transcription-PCR approach, we measured VE-cadherin (VE-C), Tie-2, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 and CD133 RNA in the blood of 14 healthy controls, 3 pregnant women, and 84 newly diagnosed (or relapsed) cancer patients. Circulating VE-C RNA was increased in pregnant women and cancer patients (P = 0.0002). VE-C RNA was particularly increased in patients affected by hematological malignancies and decreased to normal values in patients achieving complete remission. Conversely, circulating RNA levels of other endothelial or progenitor cell-specific markers Tie-2, vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2, and CD133 were not significantly increased in either pregnant women or cancer patients. Comparison of various surrogate angiogenesis markers indicated a switch toward increased plasma vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) levels, viable circulating endothelial cells, and circulating VE-C RNA levels in patients affected by hematological malignancies. Taken together, our data indicate that the quantitative evaluation of circulating VE-C RNA is a specific and highly promising tool with which to investigate the angiogenic phenotype of cancer patients.

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