Background: Lymphangioleiomyomatosis (LAM) is a rare multisystem disorder affecting primarily women of child-bearing age, and characterized by cystic lung destruction, tumors of the kidney (angiomyolipomas [AMLs]), and involvement of the axial lymphatics (lymphangioleiomyomas). Patients with LAM experience loss of pulmonary function attributed to the proliferation of abnormal-appearing smooth muscle-like cells (LAM cells). It is possible to group the LAM population by the presence or absence of extrapulmonary involvement (eg, AMLs, lymphangioleiomyomas, chylous effusions). Serum vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-D, a lymphangiogenic factor, is higher in LAM patients than in healthy volunteers and has been proposed as a tool in the differential diagnosis of cystic lung disease. We assessed serum VEGF-D concentrations in relationship to clinical phenotype in LAM patients.
Methods: Serum VEGF-D levels were quantified by enzyme immunosorbent assay for 111 patients with LAM and 40 healthy volunteers. VEGF-D levels in patients with pulmonary LAM, with or without extrapulmonary manifestations, were compared to those of healthy volunteers.
Results: Serum VEGF-D levels were greater in patients with LAM compared to those of healthy volunteers (p < 0.001). However, when patient samples were grouped based on the extent of lymphatic extrapulmonary involvement (eg, lymphangioleiomyomas and adenopathy), the statistical difference was maintained only for patients with LAM with lymphatic involvement (p < 0.001), not for those patients whose disease was restricted to the lung. Serum VEGF-D levels are a good biomarker for lymphatic involvement (area under the curve [AUC], 0.845; p < 0.0001), and a fair predictor for LAM disease (AUC, 0.751; p < 0.0001). Serum levels correlated to CT scan grade (p = 0.033).
Conclusions: Serum VEGF-D concentration is a measure of lymphatic involvement in patients with LAM.