Hypoxia-inducible factor (HIF)-1alpha is a transcription factor that promotes ischaemia-driven angiogenesis. The aim of this study was to determine the relation of HIF-1alpha to vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF; an important angiogenic molecule in brain tumours), p53 expression, angiogenesis, proliferative potential and clinical outcome in a large series of diffuse astrocytomas. Expression of HIF-1alpha, VEGF, Ki-67 (a proliferation-associated marker) and p53 was determined immunohistochemically in 83 adult patients with supratentorial diffuse astrocytomas. Microvessels, highlighted by means of anti-CD34 immunohistochemistry, were enumerated with computer-assisted image analysis. Although HIF-1alpha and VEGF were expressed in the majority of cases, their levels increased significantly with increasing grade and proliferative potential. HIF-1alpha positively correlated with microvessel counts and VEGF with total vascular area and the presence of rounder vessel sections. There was a positive correlation of VEGF with p53 expression in astrocytomas and anaplastic astrocytomas. In univariate analysis, both VEGF and HIF-1alpha were associated with shortened survival in the entire cohort, but lost significance when grades II/III and grade IV were analysed separately. Multivariate analysis revealed that the combination of HIF-1alpha with grade was a significant prognostic indicator. HIF-1alpha expression may be used to refine the prognostic information provided by grade in patients with diffuse astrocytomas. Its adverse prognostic effect is most likely mediated by hypoxia, the driving force for HIF-1alpha accumulation.
Copyright 2004 Blackwell Publishing Ltd