Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the major pro-angiogenic factor for most tumors. VEGF expression has been shown to be associated with a poor prognosis in human pancreatic cancer. The purpose of our study was to determine the effect of blockade of VEGF receptor-2 activity with or without gemcitabine on tumor growth and metastasis in an orthotopic model of human pancreatic cancer in nude mice. Therapy with gemcitabine or DC101, a VEGF receptor-2 antibody, resulted in a significant reduction of primary pancreatic tumor growth compared to untreated controls. The combination of DC101 and gemcitabine inhibited primary pancreatic tumor growth and lymphatic metastasis to a greater degree than either agent alone. Treatment with DC101 decreased vessel counts and increased the area of hypoxic tumor tissue compared to controls. Immunofluorescent double staining for apoptotic endothelial cells demonstrated a significant increase in the number apoptotic endothelial cells 24 days after initiation of therapy with DC101 plus gemcitabine. DC101 plus gemcitabine also increased tumor cell death and decreased tumor cell proliferation in pancreatic tumors. These findings indicate that blockade of VEGF receptor activation interferes with the survival of tumor endothelial cells, resulting in a reduction of primary pancreatic tumor growth in nude mice. Furthermore, the data demonstrate that anti-VEGF receptor-2 therapy potentiates the tumoricidal effect of gemcitabine in this model. Anti-VEGF receptor-2 therapy in combination with gemcitabine may be a novel therapeutic approach for advanced pancreatic cancer.
Copyright 2002 Wiley-Liss, Inc.