Tumor vessel development and maturation impose limits on the effectiveness of anti-vascular therapy

Am J Pathol. 2003 Jan;162(1):183-93. doi: 10.1016/S0002-9440(10)63809-6.


The effect of anti-vascular agents on the growth of experimental tumors is well studied. Their impact on tumor vasculature, the primary therapeutic target of these agents, is not as well characterized, even though this primarily determines treatment outcome. Hypothesizing that the response of vessels to therapy is influenced by their stage of maturation, we studied vascular development and the vascular effects of therapy in several transplanted murine tumor models. Based on size, perfusion, endothelial cell (EC) proliferation, and the presence of pericytes, tumor vessels segregated into three categories. Least mature were highly proliferative, nonperfused EC sprouts emanating from functional vessels. Intermediate were small, perfused vessels which, like the angiogenic sprouts, were not covered by pericytes. Most mature were larger vessels, which were predominantly pericyte-covered with quiescent ECs and few associated sprouts. Thus, a developmental order, similar to that described during physiological neovascularization, was evident among vessels in growing tumors. This order markedly influenced tumor vessel response to anti-vascular therapy with recombinant interleukin-12. Therapy reduced tumor vessel density, which was attributable to a decrease in angiogenic sprouts and induction of EC apoptosis in pericyte-negative vessels. Although the great majority of vessels in growing tumors lacked pericyte coverage, selective loss of less mature vessels with therapy significantly increased the fraction of pericyte-positive vessels after therapy. These data indicate that the therapeutic susceptibility of tumor vasculature to recombinant murine IL-12 and, potentially, other anti-vascular agents is limited by its level of maturation. An implication is that tumor susceptibility is similarly limited, making pericyte coverage of tumor vasculature a potential indicator of tumor responsiveness.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, Non-P.H.S.
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Apoptosis / drug effects
  • Blood Vessels / drug effects*
  • Blood Vessels / growth & development
  • Blood Vessels / pathology
  • Disease Models, Animal
  • Endothelium, Vascular / drug effects
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology
  • Interleukin-12 / therapeutic use
  • Mice
  • Neoplasm Transplantation
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Pericytes / pathology
  • Recombinant Proteins / therapeutic use
  • Treatment Outcome


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Recombinant Proteins
  • Interleukin-12