Background: Vascular endothelial (VE)-cadherin is an endothelial cell-specific protein responsible for endothelium integrity. Its adhesive properties are regulated by post-translational processing, such as tyrosine phosphorylation at site Y685 in its cytoplasmic domain, and cleavage of its extracellular domain (sVE). In hormone-refractory metastatic breast cancer, we recently demonstrated that sVE levels correlate to poor survival. In the present study, we determine whether kidney cancer therapies had an effect on VE-cadherin structural modifications and their clinical interest to monitor patient outcome.
Methods: The effects of kidney cancer biotherapies were tested on an endothelial monolayer model mimicking the endothelium lining blood vessels and on a homotypic and heterotypic 3D cell model mimicking tumour growth. sVE was quantified by ELISA in renal cell carcinoma patients initiating sunitinib (48 patients) or bevacizumab (83 patients) in the first-line metastatic setting (SUVEGIL and TORAVA trials).
Results: Human VE-cadherin is a direct target for sunitinib which inhibits its VEGF-induced phosphorylation and cleavage on endothelial monolayer and endothelial cell migration in the 3D model. The tumour cell environment modulates VE-cadherin functions through MMPs and VEGF. We demonstrate the presence of soluble VE-cadherin in the sera of mRCC patients (n = 131) which level at baseline, is higher than in a healthy donor group (n = 96). Analysis of sVE level after 4 weeks of treatment showed that a decrease in sVE level discriminates the responders vs. non-responders to sunitinib, but not bevacizumab.
Conclusions: These data highlight the interest for the sVE bioassay in future follow-up of cancer patients treated with targeted therapies such as tyrosine-kinase inhibitors.
Trial registration: ClinicalTrials.gov NCT00619268 NCT00943839.