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Lab Invest. 2008 Apr;88(4):342-53. doi: 10.1038/labinvest.2008.6. Epub 2008 Feb 18.

Angiogenic heterogeneity in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma: biological and therapeutic implications.

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Department of Pathology, Medicine and Radiation & Cellular Oncology, The University of Chicago, Chicago, IL, USA.


The literature contains numerous references describing heterogeneity for tumor phenotypes including cell proliferation, invasiveness, metastatic potential, and response to therapies. However, data regarding angiogenic heterogeneity are limited. In this study, we investigated the degree of intertumoral angiogenic heterogeneity present in head and neck squamous cell carcinomas (HNSCC). In addition, we investigated the biological relevance that this heterogeneity may have in the context of cytokine directed antiangiogenic therapy. Keratinocytes were harvested from HNSCC specimens using laser capture microdissection (LCM). Gene expression profiling of the RNA extracted from these specimens demonstrated variability in the expression of angiogenesis-related genes. Hierarchical clustering and principal component analyses (PCA) demonstrated the presence of unique patient clusters, suggesting that there may be two potentially distinct pathways by which HNSCC induce angiogenesis. Immunohistochemistry for VEGF, IL-8/CXCL8, HGF, and FGF-2, cytokines that play functional roles in HNSCC angiogenesis was performed on the original patient samples as well as a larger panel of normal, dysplastic and HNSCC specimens to validate the heterogeneous expression observed in the gene expression profiling studies. Finally, the therapeutic response of HNSCC tumor xenografts to anti-VEGF therapy was found to be dependent on the amount of VEGF produced by the tumor cells. These findings support the hypothesis of intertumoral angiogenic heterogeneity. They imply that there are differences with regard to the specific molecular mechanisms by which individual tumors within the same histological type induce angiogenesis. Moreover, they demonstrate the need for a more in-depth understanding of the variability of the angiogenic phenotype within a given type of neoplasm when designing cytokine targeted antiangiogenic therapies. Finally, they suggest that studies in conjunction with the ongoing clinical trials that explore the correlation between target expression and clinical outcome are warranted.

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