Tumor-surrogate blood vessel subtypes exhibit differential susceptibility to anti-VEGF therapy

Cancer Res. 2011 Nov 15;71(22):7021-8. doi: 10.1158/0008-5472.CAN-11-1693. Epub 2011 Sep 21.


Antivascular therapy directed against VEGF or its receptors (VEGFR) has been successful when administered at early stages of tumor vessel growth but is less effective when administered later. Tumor blood vessels are heterogeneous, so vessel subpopulations may differ in their requirements for tumor cell-secreted VEGF and in their susceptibility to anti-VEGF/VEGFR therapy. Human cancers contain several distinct blood vessel types, including mother vessels (MV), glomeruloid microvascular proliferations (GMP), vascular malformations (VM), feeding arteries (FA), and draining veins (DV), all of which can be generated in mice in the absence of tumor cells using expression vectors for VEGF-A(164). In this study, we investigated the sensitivity of each of these vessel types to anti-VEGF therapy with Aflibercept (VEGF Trap), a potent inhibitor of VEGF-A(164). Administering VEGF Trap treatment before or shortly after injection of a recombinant VEGF-A(164)-expressing adenovirus could prevent or regress tumor-free neovasculature, but it was progressively less effective if initiated at later times. Early-forming MVs and GMPs in which the lining endothelial cells expressed high levels of VEGFR-2 were highly susceptible to blockade by VEGF Trap. In contrast, late-forming VMs, FAs, and DVs that expressed low levels of VEGFR-2 were largely resistant. Together, our findings define the susceptibility of different blood vessel subtypes to anti-VEGF therapy, offering a possible explanation for the limited effectiveness of anti-VEGF-A/VEGFR treatment of human cancers, which are typically present for months to years before discovery and are largely populated by late-forming blood vessels.

Publication types

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

MeSH terms

  • Adenoviridae / genetics
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Capillary Permeability
  • Female
  • Mice
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms, Experimental / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / analysis


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2