Serum levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-S) have been reported to correlate with tumor stage and prognosis in various human malignancies. The source of soluble VEGF in peripheral blood remains obscure. We therefore measured the concentration of immunoreactive VEGF in 241 serum samples and 61 plasma samples (VEGF-P) from 20 subjects undergoing myeloablative chemotherapy and from 3 normal platelet donors. A significant correlation between the peripheral blood platelet count (PC) and VEGF-S (r = 0.86) but not VEGF-P was found. VEGF-S levels were 58.43 +/- 42.50 pg/ml (mean +/- SD) in patients with a PC < 50 x 10(9)/l, 203.29 +/- 176.56 pg/ml for a PC of 50-150 x 10(9)/l, and 457.42 +/- 475.41 pg/ml for a PC > 150 x 10(9)/l. Interestingly, VEGF-P levels were substantially lower than the corresponding VEGF-S values, namely below the detection limit in most cases. Supernatants from platelet-rich plasma contained no VEGF, but after in vitro lysis of the platelets very high VEGF levels were found. The VEGF content per 10(9) platelets was calculated at 2.51 +/- 2.39 pg and was dependent on the mean platelet volume. In summary, VEGF release from platelets during blood clotting was found to be the main source of VEGF in serum samples. Cancer patients in clinical remission have negligible amounts of soluble VEGF in peripheral blood, and myeloablative chemotherapy causes a significant drop in VEGF-S levels corresponding to the decrease in PC. Thus, studies addressing the diagnostic and prognostic value of VEGF-S in cancer patients must be interpreted with caution. Our data provide the basis for predicting VEGF-S in relation to PC in vivo, and for reevaluating former studies of VEGF-S in patients with malignant or nonmalignant disease.
Copyright 2000 S. Karger AG, Basel