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Am J Surg. 1997 Nov;174(5):540-4.

Expression of basic fibroblast growth factor and its receptors by head and neck squamous carcinoma tumor and vascular endothelial cells.

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Department of Surgery, University of Connecticut Health Center, School of Medicine, Farmington 06030-3105, USA.



Basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF) is a potent angiogenic factor implicated in tumor growth and metastasis. To determine if bFGF and basic fibroblast growth factor receptor 1 (bFGFR1) and 2 (bFGFR2) are upregulated in head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC), we measured the distribution and levels of each in HNSCC specimens and control specimens.


Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma and control tissue specimens were analyzed qualitatively (40 patients, 10 controls) using immunohistochemistry, and quantitatively (26 patients, 8 controls) using immunoassays and graded immunohistochemistry. Control tissue consisted of palatal tissue obtained during uvulopalatopharyngoplasty (UPPP).


Immunohistochemical analysis revealed that bFGF, bFGFR1, and bFGFR2 antigens were strongly associated with cancer and vascular endothelial cells in HNSCC. Control tissue had moderate staining of vascular endothelium and no stromal staining. Quantitative analysis of bFGF in tissue homogenates indicated that bFGF levels in cancer specimens were significantly elevated compared with control tissues (420.3 +/- 360.9 ng/mg total protein versus 49.2 +/- 48.7, respectively, P < or =0.05). When analyzed by clinical stage, bFGF levels were significantly higher in stage III patients as compared with stage IV patients (P < or =0.01). When immunohistochemistry results were correlated with clinical stage, bFGF (P < or =0.01), bFGFR1 (P < or =0.001), and bFGFR2 (P < or =0.0001) staining was significantly more intense in the cancer cells of stage III versus stage IV patients.


Enhanced expression of bFGF and bFGF receptors by cancer and vascular endothelial cells is present in HNSCC, and may contribute to tumor growth and metastasis in HNSCC by mediating angiogenesis. Strategies aimed at decreasing the expression of bFGF and its receptors may be of therapeutic benefit in HNSCC, particularly at an early stage of disease.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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