Background: Basal cell carcinomas (BCC) and squamous cell carcinomas (SCC) can both arise from any cutaneous epithelial surface. BCC are slow growing and rarely metastasise, whereas SCC are usually more aggressive. It is likely that the angiogenic process plays a key role in determining rate of growth and propensity for dissemination. Angiogenesis is a complex process requiring many factors and a pivotal group of proteins involved in this process is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).
Methods: Immunohistochemical expression of VEGF was assessed in 44 cases of BCC and 41 cases of cutaneous SCC from the head and neck region.
Results: VEGF was expressed by blood vessel endothelial cells in both adjacent skin and tumour, and in the basal keratinocyte layer of epidermis. In BCC, VEGF was expressed by tumour epithelial cells, predominantly at the invasive tumour front, in 24/44 cases and its expression was significantly greater than in adjacent skin (p = 0.038). More widespread VEGF expression was found in 32/41 cases of SCC, and it was significantly associated with the degree of tumour differentiation (p < 0.001).
Conclusions: The patterns of VEGF expression in BCC and SCC may help to explain the different behaviour that is usually seen with these tumours.