Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor C (VEGF-C) is the only factor known to cause lymphangiogenesis. In esophageal cancer the histologic tumor type and lymph node metastasis are independent predictors of recurrence and poor outcome. To evaluate the rule of VEGF-C expression in esophageal cancer, we investigated 113 specimens, 59 squamous cell and 54 adenocarcinomas of the esophagus.
Methods: The expression of VEGF-C was evaluated using immunohistochemistry (IHC) on 59 paraffin-embedded archival specimens from patients with squamous cell esophageal carcinomas and 54 paraffin-embedded archival specimens of patients with esophageal adenocarcinomas arising in Barrett's mucosa. All patients had a complete tumor resection. A complete and updated follow-up was available for all patients.
Results: The expression of VEGF-C was significantly different between the two histological types of esophageal tumors. Patients with squamous cell carcinoma and lymph node metastases had a significantly higher VEGF-C expression (P < 0.01). In patients with adenocarcinoma of the esophagus there was no correlation between VEGF-C expression and clinicopathological parameters. High VEGF-C expression tended to be correlated with poor survival in squamous cell cancer but not in adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.
Conclusions: The present study indicates that VEGF-C may play a role in tumor progression via lymphangiogenesis in squamous cell carcinoma of the esophagus. This seems not to be true for the adenocarcinoma of the esophagus. These data could help with the understanding of the different onset and characteristics of lymph node metastasis in squamous cell carcinoma and adenocarcinoma of the esophagus.