Over the last decade assessment of angiogenesis has emerged as a potentially useful biological prognostic and predictive factor in human solid tumours. With the development of highly specific endothelial markers that can be assessed in histological archival specimens, several quantitative studies have been performed in various solid tumours. The majority of published studies have shown a positive correlation between intra-tumoural microvessel density, a measure of tumour angiogenesis, and prognosis in solid tumours. A minority of studies have not demonstrated an association and this may be attributed to significant differences in the methodologies employed for sample selection, immunostaining techniques, vessel counting and statistical analysis, although a number of biological differences may account for the discrepancy. In this review we evaluate the quantification of angiogenesis by immunohistochemistry, the relationship between tumour vascularity and metastasis, and the clinicopathological studies correlating intra-tumoral microvessel density with prognosis and response to anti-cancer therapy. In view of the extensive nature of this retrospective body of data, comparative studies are needed to identify the optimum technique and endothelial antigens (activated or pan-endothelial antigens) but subsequently prospective studies that allocate treatment on the basis of microvessel density are required.
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