Current pathologic methods for measuring intratumoral microvessel density within breast carcinoma and other solid tumors

Breast Cancer Res Treat. 1995;36(2):169-80. doi: 10.1007/BF00666038.


Abundant evidence has shown that tumor growth and metastasis are dependent upon tumor angiogenesis (TA). TA refers to the growth of new vessels toward and within the tumor. Until TA occurs, tumors grow no larger than 2-4 mm in diameter. Also, TA is necessary at the beginning and at the end of the metastatic cascade of events. Thus, it seems reasonable that increasing intratumoral microvascular density (iMVD) might correlate with greater tumor aggressiveness, such as a higher frequency of metastases and/or decreased survival. Indeed, in 1991 my colleagues and I reported a statistically significant association between greater incidence of metastases in patients with breast carcinoma and increasing iMVD. Microvessel density was measured with a light microscope in a single area of invasive tumor (200x field or 0.74 mm2) representative of the highest microvessel density (neovascular "hot spot"). This was done after endothelial cells, lining the microvessels, had been highlighted with anti-factor VIII-related antigen/von Willebrand's factor (F8RA/vWF). Subsequent studies by other investigators, using either anti-F8RA/vWF or other relatively vessel-specific reagents such as anti-CD31, have shown that the association of greater tumor aggressiveness with increasing iMVD exists not only in breast carcinoma, but also in other solid tumors. This article reviews the methods of highlighting intratumoral vessels and describes the techniques for counting these vessels for assessing iMVD.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Breast Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Breast Neoplasms / pathology
  • Cell Division / physiology
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / pathology*