Purpose: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a principal growth factor mediating tumor angiogenesis. The high expression of VEGF within bladder tumors is associated with a poor prognosis. We quantified urinary VEGF and determined its potential as a prognostic marker in bladder cancer.
Materials and methods: VEGF was measured by enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in the urine of 261 patients, including 153 undergoing cystoscopic surveillance for bladder cancer and 108 with another advanced malignancy or a benign urological condition. The source of urinary VEGF was studied through its quantification in bladder tumors and normal bladders.
Results: Urinary VEGF was higher in patients undergoing cystoscopic surveillance for bladder cancer than in those with an advanced nonbladder malignancy (p <0.0001) or a benign urological condition (p = 0.004). The highest levels were noted in patients with bladder cancer compared to those with clear cystoscopy (p <0.0001). In 26 cases the correlation between VEGF protein levels in bladder cancer and urine (r = 0.67, p = 0.003) suggested that the tumor is a source of urinary VEGF. Increased VEGF protein in normal urothelium in 22 patients with bladder cancer compared to that in 7 cadaveric organ donors (p = 0.002) indicates that urinary VEGF may also be derived from nonmalignant urothelium. In 61 cases we established a correlation between urinary VEGF and stage T1 or less superficial bladder tumor recurrence rates (r = 0.45, p <0.0001).
Conclusions: Our study demonstrates that VEGF is high in the urine of patients with bladder cancer and it correlates with tumor recurrence rates. VEGF is implicated in the pathogenesis of bladder cancer recurrence. Its quantification may provide a valuable noninvasive marker for the early detection of bladder tumor recurrence as well as a therapy target.