Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) receptor-2 is the major mediator of the mitogenic, angiogenic, and vascular hyperpermeability effects of VEGF on breast tumors. Overexpression of VEGF and VEGF receptor-2 is associated with the degree of pathomorphosis of the tumor tissue and unfavorable prognosis. In this study, we demonstrate that non-invasive quantification of the degree of tumor vascular permeability to a nanoprobe correlates with the VEGF and its receptor levels and tumor growth.
Methodology/principal findings: We designed an imaging nanoprobe and a methodology to detect the intratumoral deposition of a 100 nm-scale nanoprobe using mammography allowing measurement of the tumor vascular permeability in a rat MAT B III breast tumor model. The tumor vascular permeability varied widely among the animals. Notably, the VEGF and VEGF receptor-2 gene expression of the tumors as measured by qRT-PCR displayed a strong correlation to the imaging-based measurements of vascular permeability to the 100 nm-scale nanoprobe. This is in good agreement with the fact that tumors with high angiogenic activity are expected to have more permeable blood vessels resulting in high intratumoral deposition of a nanoscale agent. In addition, we show that higher intratumoral deposition of the nanoprobe as imaged with mammography correlated to a faster tumor growth rate. This data suggest that vascular permeability scales to the tumor growth and that tumor vascular permeability can be a measure of underlying VEGF and VEGF receptor-2 expression in individual tumors.
Conclusions/significance: This is the first demonstration, to our knowledge, that quantitative imaging of tumor vascular permeability to a nanoprobe represents a form of a surrogate, functional biomarker of underlying molecular markers of angiogenesis.