Although in the normal healthy organism angiogenesis is a tightly regulated process, under a variety of circumstances it may contribute to disease states. These include the growth of solid tumors, the hematogenous spread of tumor cells and the growth of metastasis. Our aim was to measure the levels of 5 angiogenic cytokines in the plasma of patients with a variety of cancers, to establish a plasmatic angiogenic profile. We prospectively obtained blood samples in citrated tubes from 40 healthy individuals and 75 patients with a variety of solid tumors. Patients who had received any form of treatment in the preceeding 6 months were excluded from the study. Plasma levels of the following 5 cytokines were determined by ELISA: vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), hepatocyte growth factor (HGF), basic fibroblast growth factor, transforming growth factor-beta and tumor necrosis factor-alpha. In some cases, additional samples were taken 4 and 15 days after surgical removal of the tumor. Our findings demonstrate, that firstly, compared to the tumor group VEGF was almost always undetectable or present at very low levels in healthy individuals; secondly, a threshold value for HGF was found to exist between the 2 groups (healthy vs. tumor); and thirdly, there was a clear relationship between plasma levels of VEGF and HGF and extension of disease (i.e., without or with metastases). The timing of blood sampling in the post-operative period was found to be critical, particularly with regard to VEGF and HGF. The existence of a systemic angiogenic profile in the plasma of cancer patients may be useful as a diagnostic and prognostic tool and may help in the future to monitor the responses of individual patients to anti-tumor and, particularly, anti-angiogenic therapy.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.