Objective: To quantitate tumor angiogenesis by establishing intratumoral microvessel density (IMD), to study vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in different grades of astrocytomas and to correlate VEGF expression with tumor angiogenesis.
Study design: Forty cases of astrocytic neoplasms (10 of each grade) were assessed for tumor angiogenesis and VEGF expression. The panendothelial marker CD31 was used to highlight microvessels. Tumor angiogenesis was quantitated as IMD count per square millimeter in areas of high vascularity, or "hot spots," using an image analyzer. VEGF expression was studied in sections of the tumors. IMD counts per square millimeter and VEGF expression were correlated with histologic grade. The angiogenic potential of tumors as reflected by IMD counts per square millimeter was correlated with the intensity of VEGF expression.
Results: Vascular proliferation in high grade gliomas was significantly higher as compared to that in low grade gliomas. IMD count per square millimeter revealed a positive correlation with histologic grade in high grade gliomas. Pilocytic astrocytoma and low grade astrocytoma as a group had comparable IMD counts per square millimeter. VEGF expression paralleled IMD counts in rare high grade gliomas only.
Conclusion: Malignant progression in astrocytoma is heralded and accompanied by increased angiogenesis. VEGF is an important angiogenic factor in high grade gliomas since its expression parallels the increased IMD counts in these tumors. In contrast, in low grade gliomas, angiogenic factors other than VEGF may contribute to vascular proliferation. The results emphasize the role of antiangiogenic therapy as an optimal tool in therapeutic strategies as they become available.