Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) has emerged as one of the most important angiogenic growth factors from experimental in vitro and in vivo studies. In the present study, we investigated the relationship between VEGF expression and microvessel density (MVD) and defined their prognostic relevance on a series of 242 patients with node-negative breast cancer, using immunohistochemical methods. In parallel, estrogen and progesterone receptors were quantitatively assessed using the dextran-charcoal technique and cell proliferation was evaluated as S-phase cell fraction according to (3)H-thymidine-labeling index (TLI). The percentage of VEGF-expressing cells varied from 0-95% in the different tumors and was unrelated to menopausal status, tumor size or steroid receptor status. Conversely, a significant inverse relation was observed with patient age or tumor cell proliferation, albeit with very poor correlation coefficients. A significant relation was observed between VEGF expression and MVD (r(s) = 0.55, p < 0.001). Clinical outcome analyzed as a function of high and low VEGF expression showed slight differences in terms of both disease-free survival (DFS) and overall survival (OS) that never reached statistical significance. Moreover, the trend was paradoxically in favor of patients with highly VEGF-expressing tumors. Finally, DFS and OS curves, when analyzed as a function of VEGF expression or MVD, were superimposable. In conclusion, our study did not highlight a prognostic relevance of VEGF expression in patients with node-negative breast cancer, as already observed for MVD.
Copyright 2001 Wiley-Liss, Inc.