Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 as a marker for malignant vascular tumors and mesothelioma: an immunohistochemical study of 262 vascular endothelial and 1640 nonvascular tumors

Am J Surg Pathol. 2012 Apr;36(4):629-39. doi: 10.1097/PAS.0b013e318243555b.


Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 (VEGFR2) is a primary responder to vascular endothelial growth factor signal and thereby regulates endothelial migration and proliferation. This receptor is expressed in endothelial cells and in some vascular tumors, but many reports also detail its expression in carcinomas and lymphomas. VEGFR2 is a potential cell-type marker, and data on VEGFR2 expression may also have therapeutic significance in view of recent availability of VEGFR2 inhibitors. In this study, we immunohistochemically examined 262 vascular endothelial and 1640 nonvascular tumors and selected non-neoplastic tissues with a VEGFR2-specific rabbit monoclonal antibody 55B11. In early human embryo, VEFGR2 was expressed in endothelia of developing capillaries and in the thoracic duct, great vessels, hepatic sinusoids, epidermis, and mesothelia. In late first trimester fetus peripheral soft tissues, VEGFR2 was restricted to capillary endothelia, chondrocytes, and superficial portion of the epidermis. In normal adult tissues, it was restricted to endothelia and mesothelia. VEGFR2 was consistently expressed in angiosarcomas, Kaposi sarcomas, and retiform hemangioendotheliomas. It was detected in only half of epithelioid hemangioendotheliomas (15/27), usually focally. VEGFR2 was strongly expressed in most capillary hemangiomas and weakly or focally in cavernous, venous, and spindle cell hemangiomas and in lymphangiomas. Malignant epithelial mesothelioma was found to be a unique epithelial neoplasm with a strong and nearly consistent VEGFR2 expression, including membrane staining (35/38). Approximately 10% of squamous cell carcinomas and 23% of pulmonary adenocarcinomas contained focal positivity. The only nonendothelial mesenchymal tumors found to be VEGFR2 positive were biphasic synovial sarcoma (focal epithelial expression) and chordoma. All melanomas and lymphomas were negative. VEGFR2 is a promising marker for malignant vascular tumors and malignant epithelioid mesothelioma. Expression in biphasic synovial sarcoma epithelium, chordoma, and some carcinomas has to be considered in differential diagnosis. Information on VEGFR2 tissue expression may be useful in development of targeted oncologic therapy through VEGFR2-specific tyrosine kinase inhibitors.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Intramural

MeSH terms

  • Biomarkers, Tumor / metabolism
  • Embryo, Mammalian / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / embryology
  • Endothelium, Vascular / metabolism
  • Endothelium, Vascular / pathology*
  • Female
  • Gestational Age
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Male
  • Mesothelioma / metabolism
  • Mesothelioma / pathology*
  • Mesothelioma / surgery
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neoplasms / surgery
  • Tissue Array Analysis
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2 / metabolism*
  • Vascular Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Vascular Neoplasms / pathology*
  • Vascular Neoplasms / surgery


  • Biomarkers, Tumor
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Receptor-2