Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a vascular endothelial cell-specific mitogen secreted by some cancer cells and is a major regulator of angiogenesis. Because thyroid-stimulating hormone (TSH) promotes growth and progression of thyroid cancers, we postulated that TSH may increase the production and secretion of VEGF by thyroid cancer cells.
Methods: We examined primary cultures of normal human thyroid (NT 1.0), medullary thyroid cancer (MTC 1.1), and cell lines derived from the papillary (TPC-1), follicular (FTC-133), and Hürthle cell (XTC-1) thyroid cancer. We quantified the concentration of VEGF in conditioned medium by means of enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay.
Results: Cell lines derived from thyroid secrete VEGF. Basal VEGF secretion was similar in normal and thyroid cancer cells, except XTC-1, which has high basal secretion (p < 0.01). All thyroid cancer cells secrete significantly more VEGF than normal thyroid cells after TSH (10 mIU/ml) stimulation (p < 0.05). TSH stimulated secretion of VEGF in FTC-133 (8.2 ng/dl versus 18.8 ng/dl), TPC-1 (5.5 ng/dl versus 26.9 ng/dl), and MTC 1.1 (5.9 ng/dl versus 13.4 ng/dl) cell lines (p < 0.01), but not in NT 1.0 (8.4 ng/dl versus 9.9 ng/dl) and XTC-1 (25.4 ng/dl versus 31.2 ng/dl) cells.
Conclusions: These results suggest that VEGF secretion is constitutively activated in some thyroid cancers and that VEGF secretion is stimulated by TSH; thus TSH may promote growth in some thyroid cancers by stimulating VEGF secretion and angiogenesis.