Investigation of pericytes, hypoxia, and vascularity in bladder tumors: association with clinical outcomes

Oncol Res. 2008;17(3):93-101. doi: 10.3727/096504008785055530.


The contribution of endothelial cell growth to angiogenesis has been widely studied; however, the involvement of pericytes is less well documented, especially in human tumors. In this study we aimed to quantify and assess the prognostic significance of pericyte coverage, the extent of hypoxia, and microvessel density (MVD) in normal bladder mucosa and urothelial carcinoma. Antibody to alpha-smooth muscle actin was used to assess the distribution of pericytes (mural/smooth muscle cells) in the microvessels of normal human bladder (n = 4) mucosa and in urothelial carcinoma (n = 47) samples; this was quantitated using microvessel pericyte index (MPI). The MVD was measured using two different methods (n = 47) and hypoxia was assessed using glucose transporter-1 (Glut-1) staining (n = 30). There was a 70% reduction in MPI in urothelial carcinomas compared to normal bladder mucosa (p < 0.0012); MPI did not correlate with tumor stage or grade. Ta and T1 superficial tumors were divided into two groups with a MPI of <15% or >15%. Progression-free survival was significantly shorter for tumors with MPI >15% (p = 0.0036). MVD had no prognostic value using either evaluation method. Glut-1 immunoreactivity was not prognostic in superficial urothelial carcinoma samples. Tumors with a higher MPI showed a greater Glut-1 immunoreactivity (p = 0.0051). Microvessels in urothelial carcinoma have a considerable loss of pericyte coverage compared to normal bladder mucosa. The data from this preliminary study indicate that progression-free survival was shorter in patients whose superficial tumors had higher pericyte coverage of the microvessels. This may be due to increased levels of hypoxia, as demonstrated by a significant increase in Glut-1 staining.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Aged, 80 and over
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Carcinoma / blood supply
  • Carcinoma / pathology*
  • Carcinoma / physiopathology
  • Cell Count
  • Female
  • Glucose Transporter Type 1 / analysis
  • Humans
  • Hypoxia / etiology
  • Hypoxia / pathology
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / blood supply
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / pathology
  • Neoplasm Recurrence, Local / physiopathology
  • Neoplasm Staging
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / physiopathology
  • Pericytes / pathology*
  • Prognosis
  • Urinary Bladder / blood supply
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Urinary Bladder Neoplasms / physiopathology


  • Glucose Transporter Type 1