Objective: The expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a glycoprotein that selectively promotes proliferation of endothelial cells, has been associated with cancer development. The aim of the present study was to determine whether serum levels of VEGF correlate with disease progression in patients with colorectal cancer.
Methods: VEGF levels were measured by a highly sensitive enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay in sera from 67 patients with colorectal cancer, 14 patients with colorectal adenomas, and 72 healthy volunteers, and in tissue homogenates from 10 patients with colorectal cancer.
Results: Serum VEGF levels were significantly higher in patients with colorectal cancer than in patients with colorectal adenomas or in normal controls (p < 0.01). In patients with colorectal cancer, serum VEGF levels were significantly associated with Dukes stage (p < 0.01) and with carcinoembryonic antigen levels (r = 0.725, p < 0.001). Patients with hepatic and/or lymph node metastasis had higher serum VEGF levels than those without. Surgical resection of the colorectal tumor led to a decrease in serum VEGF levels whether or not metastasis was present (p < 0.05). The tumor-bearing tissue contained significantly more VEGF than normal-appearing mucosa (p < 0.05).
Conclusions: VEGF is involved in the development of colorectal cancer. Measurement of VEGF in the serum may be a useful noninvasive clinical marker for evaluating the disease status.