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J Natl Cancer Inst. 1997 Jan 15;89(2):139-47.

Prognostic significance of vascular endothelial growth factor protein in node-negative breast carcinoma.

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Department of Oncology, St. Bortolo Regional Medical Centre, Vicenza, Italy.



The clinical outcome is generally positive for patients with node-negative breast carcinoma (i.e., those who do not have detectable metastases in the lymph nodes) who have been treated with surgery or surgery plus radiation therapy. In about 30% of the patients, however, the disease recurs, and they are at risk of death. Determination of valid new prognostic indicators would improve the ability to identify patients at high risk of recurrence. Breast cancer can entail substantial development of new blood vessels within the tumor tissue, and it is known that the growth and metastasis of solid tumors are dependent on such angiogenesis. The conversion of tumor cells to an angiogenic phenotype may be preceded by a change in the balance of angiogenic growth factors and angiogenesis inhibitors.


This study was conducted to determine if the levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) protein, a potent endothelial growth factor and mediator of vascular permeability and angiogenesis, measured in the primary tumors of women with node-negative breast cancer are associated with known prognostic factors and patient survival.


By use of a selective enzymatic immunoassay, levels of VEGF protein were measured in cytosolic extracts of primary tumor tissue surgically obtained from 260 women with node-negative breast carcinoma who had been treated with surgery with or without radiation therapy but not with adjuvant therapy and who had been followed for a median time of 66 months. The relationships between VEGF concentrations and other prognostic dichotomous variables or clinical outcome were tested by the use of the Kolmogorov-Smirnov test and univariate and multivariate Cox analyses, respectively. The relationship between VEGF and hormone receptors (i.e., those for estrogen and progesterone) was examined by the use of Spearman's correlation analyses. All P values resulted from the use of two-sided statistical tests.


Tumors from 247 (95%) of the 260 patients had detectable VEGF, ranging in concentration from 5.0 to 6523 pg/mg protein (median, 126.25 pg/mg protein). No statistically significant associations were found between VEGF and the other prognostic factors (e.g., age, menopausal status, histologic tumor type, tumor size, and hormone receptors) examined. Levels of VEGF were found to be prognostic for both relapse-free and overall survival in univariate and multivariate analyses (likelihood ratio tests; all four P values < .001). In the multivariate analysis, the first-order interaction term of VEGF and estrogen receptor was also prognostic for overall survival (likelihood ratio test; P = .05).


The results show that cytosolic levels of VEGF in tumor tissue samples are indicative of prognosis for patients with node-negative breast carcinoma.

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