Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 mediates macrophage infiltration into orthotopic pancreatic tumors in mice

Cancer Res. 2008 Jun 1;68(11):4340-6. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-07-6705.


Macrophages are an abundant inflammatory cell type in the tumor microenvironment that can contribute to tumor growth and metastasis. Macrophage recruitment into tumors is mediated by multiple cytokines, including vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is thought to function primarily through VEGF receptor (VEGFR) 1 expressed on macrophages. Macrophage infiltration is affected by VEGF inhibition. We show that selective inhibition of VEGFR2 reduced macrophage infiltration into orthotopic pancreatic tumors. Our studies show that tumor-associated macrophages express VEGFR2. Furthermore, peritoneal macrophages from tumor-bearing animals express VEGFR2, whereas peritoneal macrophages from non-tumor-bearing animals do not. To our knowledge, this is the first time that tumor-associated macrophages have been shown to express VEGFR2. Additionally, we found that the cytokine pleiotrophin is sufficient to induce VEGFR2 expression on macrophages. Pleiotrophin has previously been shown to induce expression of endothelial cell markers on macrophages and was present in the microenvironment of orthotopic pancreatic tumors. Finally, we show that VEGFR2, when expressed by macrophages, is essential for VEGF-stimulated migration of tumor-associated macrophages. In summary, tumor-associated macrophages express VEGFR2, and selective inhibition of VEGFR2 reduces recruitment of macrophages into orthotopic pancreatic tumors. Our results show an underappreciated mechanism of action that may directly contribute to the antitumor activity of angiogenesis inhibitors that block the VEGFR2 pathway.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Chemotaxis, Leukocyte
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay
  • Flow Cytometry
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Macrophages, Peritoneal / cytology*
  • Mice
  • Mice, Nude
  • Pancreatic Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Reverse Transcriptase Polymerase Chain Reaction
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / physiology*


  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2