Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is involved in tumour angiogenesis, an important process for the growth and metastatic potential of solid tumours. Numerous studies have demonstrated up-regulation of VEGF at both mRNA and protein level in various tumours and a correlation with advanced stage and prognosis has been demonstrated in some cases. Limited information exists about its role in lymphoid malignancies and in particular, Hodgkin's disease. The present study examined the immunohistochemical expression of VEGF using the monoclonal antibody VG1 in a series of 61 cases of Hodgkin's disease, including both classical Hodgkin's disease and the nodular lymphocyte predominance variant, and correlated these results with microvessel density, using an anti-CD31 monoclonal antibody. In 41 cases (70.6%) of classical Hodgkin's disease and one of the three cases of nodular lymphocyte predominance Hodgkin's disease, the neoplastic Reed-Sternberg and Hodgkin cells expressed VEGF. The staining observed was cytoplasmic, either diffuse or with a focal paranuclear distribution. Macrophages were always positive, while reactive lymphocytes showed occasional positivity. A variable amount of strong extracellular staining was also observed in the tissue stroma and intravascular plasma staining was prominent. There was no statistically significant relationship between VEGF expression and the subtype of Hodgkin's disease or microvessel density. In vitro studies using the Reed-Sternberg cell lines L428 and KM-H2 were also performed in both normoxia and hypoxia and VEGF protein production was assessed by flow cytometry (FACS), immunoassay of cell culture supernatant, and RT-PCR. Analysis by FACS demonstrated a subset of cells in both cell lines reacting with VG1 and analysis of secreted VEGF (pg/ml per 1x10(6) cells) in cell culture supernatant confirmed the normoxic production in both cell lines and significant hypoxic induction (p<0.005). Additionally, both cell lines expressed VEGF mRNA, as demonstrated using the RT-PCR method. In conclusion, neoplastic cells express VEGF in Hodgkin's disease, as is the case in solid tumours, and this expression may be induced by hypoxia. The presence of VEGF in reactive macrophages and in the extracellular matrix might facilitate tumour progression.
Copyright 2002 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.