Abnormally enhanced blood concentrations of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in metastatic cancer patients and their relation to circulating dendritic cells, IL-12 and endothelin-1

J Biol Regul Homeost Agents. 2001 Apr-Jun;15(2):140-4.


Elevated VEGF blood concentrations have been proven to be associated with poor prognosis in human neoplasms. This finding is generally explained as a consequence of the potential angiogenic properties of VEGF itself. However, preliminary experimental studies suggest that VEGF, in addition to its angiogenic activity, may also play an immunosuppressant role by inhibiting dendritic cell (DC) maturation. The present study was performed to analyze blood levels of VEGF in cancer patients in relation to those of another potentially angiogenic tumor growth factor, endothelin-1 (ET-1), and to the absolute number of circulating immature and mature DC, and serum levels of the best known antitumor cytokine, IL-12. The study was performed in 100 healthy controls and in 80 solid tumor patients (colorectal cancer: 24; gastric cancer: 17; cancer of pancreas: 4; lung cancer: 13; breast cancer: 11; renal cell cancer: 6; gynecologic tumors: 5), 48 of whom showed distant organ metastases. In each patient, we have evaluated serum concentrations of VEGF-165, total VEGF, ET-1, IL-12 and the circulating number of immature (CD123+) and mature (CD11c+) DC. Mean serum levels of VEGF-165 were significantly higher in metastatic patients than in controls or in non-metastatic patients, whereas the total amounts of VEGF were not significantly higher. Moreover, it has been observed that patients with abnormally elevated blood concentrations of VEGF-165 showed significantly lower mean values of immature DC, mature DC and IL-12 and significantly higher mean levels of ET-1 than those with normal concentrations. This study, by confirming that advanced neoplastic disease may be associated with increased endogenous secretion of VEGF, seems to suggest that the association between high blood levels of VEGF and poor prognosis in cancer does not depend only on VEGF-induced stimulation of the neovascularization, but also on VEGF-related immunosuppression.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Case-Control Studies
  • Dendritic Cells / immunology*
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / blood*
  • Endothelin-1 / blood*
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Immune Tolerance
  • Interleukin-12 / blood*
  • Lymphokines / blood*
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / immunology*
  • Neoplasm Metastasis / physiopathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic
  • Prognosis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Endothelin-1
  • Lymphokines
  • VEGFA protein, human
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Interleukin-12