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Mol Cell Endocrinol. 2007 Jan 29;264(1-2):74-81. Epub 2006 Nov 13.

Retinoic acid inhibits angiogenesis and tumor growth of thyroid cancer cells.

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Department of Surgery, Philipps-University of Marburg, Baldingerstrasse, 35043 Marburg, Germany.


The anti-proliferative effect of retinoic acid (RA) has been documented for various tumors. Some 40% of patients with advanced and poorly differentiated thyroid cancer have been shown to respond to RA with increased uptake of radioiodine. It has been suggested that these effects may be caused by redifferentiation. Presently, little is known about the effects of RA on tumor angiogenesis, a prerequisite for growth and metastatic spread. The aim of the current study was to determine, whether tumor-induced angiogenesis of thyroid cancer is affected by RA. In vitro, the effect of 0.1/10 microM 13-cis RA on tumor cell number (MTT assay) and secretion of VEGF (ELISA) was analyzed in three thyroid cancer cell lines (FTC 236, C634 and XTC), as well as in endothelial cells (HUVEC) over several passages. In vivo, tumor growth, VEGF-expression and microvessel density (VSD) of RA treated thyroid cancer cells after xenotransplantation to nude mice was evaluated by morphometric analysis. In vitro, thyroid cancer cell lines responded to RA with reduced proliferation, ranging from 26 to 34% after 2 weeks of treatment and with up to 80% reduced secretion of VEGF. In vivo, tumor volumes of animals receiving RA were reduced by 33% (FTC 236), 27% (C643) and 6% (XTC), respectively. VSD of experimental tumors was diminished in the FTC 236 (25%) and the C643 cell line (15%), and almost unchanged in XTC tumors (7%). In vivo, VEGF-expression and apoptosis were not significantly affected by RA. In vitro, proliferation of HUVEC was inhibited by conditioned medium of C643 cells pretreated with RA (0.1/10 microM), as well as by administration of RA (0.1/10 microM). This study confirms thyroid tumor cell growth to be inhibited by RA. It demonstrates a decrease of in vitro VEGF accumulation and reduction of VSD in experimental undifferentiated thyroid carcinoma, suggesting that reduced angiogenesis may be an important mechanism responsible for the therapeutic effect of RA in thyroid cancer. Moreover, a direct anti-proliferative effect of RA on human endothelial cells is suggested.

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