Bevacizumab-associated glomerular microangiopathy

Mod Pathol. 2019 May;32(5):684-700. doi: 10.1038/s41379-018-0186-4. Epub 2018 Dec 14.


Bevacizumab is a humanized monoclonal IgG1 antibody, which neutralizes vascular endothelial growth factor and is used for treating multiple cancer types. As a known and frequent adverse event, this therapy can lead to renal damage including proteinuria and nephrotic syndrome. In a retrospective approach, we analyzed 17 renal biopsies from patients receiving bevacizumab treatment. We observed a distinctive histopathological pseudothrombotic pattern different from the previously reported thrombotic microangiopathy. Since this pattern includes some features similar to acute and chronic thrombotic microangiopathy, focal segmental glomerulosclerosis and cryoglobulinemic membranoproliferative glomerulonephritis, biopsies with these diagnoses were included for comparison. Clinical, laboratory, light microscopic, immunohistochemical (including a proximity ligation assay), proteomic and electron microscopic features were assessed. Nephrotic syndrome was present in 15 of the 17 bevacizumab-treated patients. All 17 displayed a patchy pattern of variably PAS-positive hyaline pseudothrombi occluding markedly dilated glomerular capillaries in their biopsies. Mass spectrometry-based proteome analysis revealed a special protein pattern demonstrating some features of thrombotic microangiopathy and some of cryoglobulinemic glomerulonephritis, including a strong accumulation of IgG in the pseudothrombi. Proximity ligation assay did not show interaction of IgG with C1q, arguing for accumulation without classic pathway complement activation. In contrast to thrombi in thrombotic microangiopathy cases, the hyaline pseudothrombi did not contain clusters of CD61-positive platelets. Electron microscopy of bevacizumab cases did not show fibrin polymers or extensive loss of podocyte foot processes. Even though cases of bevacizumab-associated microangiopathy share some features with thrombotic microangiopathy, its overall histopathological pattern is quite different from acute or chronic thrombotic microangiopathy cases. We conclude that bevacizumab therapy can lead to a unique hyaline occlusive glomerular microangiopathy, likely arising from endothelial leakage followed by subendothelial accumulation of serum proteins. It can be diagnosed by light microscopy and is an important differential diagnosis in cancer patients with nephrotic syndrome.

Publication types

  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Aged
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / adverse effects*
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological / adverse effects*
  • Bevacizumab / adverse effects*
  • Biomarkers / analysis
  • Female
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative / chemically induced*
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative / immunology
  • Glomerulonephritis, Membranoproliferative / pathology
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / chemically induced*
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / immunology
  • Glomerulosclerosis, Focal Segmental / pathology
  • Humans
  • Hyalin / ultrastructure
  • Kidney Glomerulus / drug effects*
  • Kidney Glomerulus / immunology
  • Kidney Glomerulus / ultrastructure
  • Male
  • Middle Aged
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / chemically induced*
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / immunology
  • Nephrotic Syndrome / pathology
  • Retrospective Studies
  • Thrombotic Microangiopathies / chemically induced*
  • Thrombotic Microangiopathies / immunology
  • Thrombotic Microangiopathies / pathology


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Antineoplastic Agents, Immunological
  • Biomarkers
  • Bevacizumab