Because the crucial role of angiogenesis has been demonstrated in tumor growth and metastasis, the present study was undertaken to characterize the relative expression of vascular endothelial growth factors VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor), VEGF-B, VEGF-C, and their receptors KDR (kinase insert domain-containing receptor), FLT-1 (fms-like tyrosine kinase), and FLT-4 in human colonic cancers, in relation to the Astler-Coller pathological classification, and to prognosis. VEGF and VEGF-B gene expression was quantified by Northern blot in 72 tumor samples matched with control tissues. VEGF gene expression was 1.4 times higher in adenocarcinomas than in control tissues (p = 0.02), but did not increase further between Astler-Coller tumor stages A and D, and did not correlate with disease recurrence for patients at stages B2 or C. In adenomas, VEGF mRNA levels were not significantly different from those in the paired control colonic mucosa. The expression pattern of VEGF isoforms, mainly identified by RT-PCR (reverse-transcriptase-coupled polymerase chain reaction) as VEGF121 and VEGF165 and to a lesser extent VEGF189, was comparable in tumor and control tissues. VEGF-B mRNA levels were unchanged during the neoplastic progression of colonic mucosa. In contrast to KDR and FLT-4, the expression of VEGF-C and FLT-1 genes increased in some pathological tissues. These results provide evidence that the early and sustained increase in VEGF transcripts and the expression of multiple angiogenic factors and receptors contribute to the development of colon cancer, and thus constitute a putative target for anti-angiogenic drug therapy.
Copyright 2000 Wiley-Liss, Inc.