The biological functions of VEGF-B in cancer progression remain poorly understood. Here, we report that VEGF-B promotes cancer metastasis through the remodeling of tumor microvasculature. Knockdown of VEGF-B in tumors resulted in increased perivascular cell coverage and impaired pulmonary metastasis of human melanomas. In contrast, the gain of VEGF-B function in tumors led to pseudonormalized tumor vasculatures that were highly leaky and poorly perfused. Tumors expressing high levels of VEGF-B were more metastatic, although primary tumor growth was largely impaired. Similarly, VEGF-B in a VEGF-A-null tumor resulted in attenuated primary tumor growth but substantial pulmonary metastases. VEGF-B also led to highly metastatic phenotypes in Vegfr1 tk(-/-) mice and mice treated with anti-VEGF-A. These data indicate that VEGF-B promotes cancer metastasis through a VEGF-A-independent mechanism. High expression levels of VEGF-B in two large-cohort studies of human patients with lung squamous cell carcinoma and melanoma correlated with poor survival. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that VEGF-B is a vascular remodeling factor promoting cancer metastasis and that targeting VEGF-B may be an important therapeutic approach for cancer metastasis.
Keywords: VEGF-A; VEGF-B; VEGFR1; angiogenesis; metastasis.