Background: A major hallmark of malignant progression in human astrocytomas is the formation of new blood vessels. Antiangiogenic therapy using the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-antibody bevacizumab leads to increased progression-free survival in glioblastoma patients but does not influence their overall survival. To date, it is unclear why antiangiogenic therapy fails in many glioblastoma patients, while a small subpopulation profits considerably from this treatment.
Methods: The aim of our study was to determine the expression of VEGF-A and its (co-) receptors by immunohistochemistry and to test the association with patient survival in 350 glioma patients. Additionally, VEGF-A expression was analyzed by in-situ hybridization. In 18 patients, the protein expression was compared with the bevacizumab response according to extended and modified RANO criteria.
Results: We found a heterogeneous expression pattern of VEGF and its receptors in glioblastoma patients with significantly lower levels in WHO grade II and III tumors and normal-appearing brain tissue (P < .001). Pilocytic astrocytomas (WHO grade I) showed significantly higher VEGFR-1, -2 and neuropilin-1 levels as compared to WHO grade II and III astrocytomas (P < .01) but at lower levels than glioblastomas. The expression of neuropilin-2 was low in all tumors. There was neither a significant correlation between protein expression and patient survival nor between protein levels and bevacizumab response after modified RANO criteria.
Conclusion: Since our data indicate that beneficial response to bevacizumab treatment is independent of the expression of VEGF-A and its (co-) receptors, further investigation is needed to decipher the underlying mechanisms of antiangiogenic treatment response.
Keywords: VEGF; VEGF receptors; antiangiogenic therapy; bevacizumab; glioma.
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