Release of the angiogenic cytokine vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) from platelets: significance for VEGF measurements and cancer biology

Br J Cancer. 1998 Mar;77(6):956-64. doi: 10.1038/bjc.1998.158.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent angiogenic factor with a key role in several pathological processes, including tumour vascularization. Our preliminary observations indicated higher VEGF concentrations in serum samples than in matched plasma samples. We have now demonstrated that this difference is due to the presence of VEGF within platelets and its release upon their activation during coagulation. In eight healthy volunteers, serum VEGF concentrations ranged from 76 to 854 pg ml(-1) and were significantly higher (P < 0.01) than the matched citrated plasma VEGF concentrations, which ranged from < 9 to 42 pg ml(-1). Using platelet-rich plasma, mean (s.d.) platelet VEGF contents of 0.56 (0.36) pg of VEGF 10(-6) platelets were found. Immunocytochemistry demonstrated the cytoplasmic presence of VEGF within megakaryocytes and other cell types within the bone marrow. From examination of the effects of blood sample processing on circulating VEGF concentrations, it is apparent that for accurate measurements, citrated plasma processed within 1 h of venepuncture should be used. Serum is completely unsuitable. The presence of VEGF within platelets has implications for processes involving platelet and endothelial cell interactions. e.g. wound healing, and in tumour metastasis, when platelets adhering to circulating tumour cells may release VEGF at points of adhesion to endothelium, leading to hyperpermeability and extravasation of cells.

Publication types

  • Comparative Study
  • Research Support, Non-U.S. Gov't

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Biomarkers / blood
  • Blood Platelets / cytology
  • Blood Platelets / physiology*
  • Blood Specimen Collection / methods
  • Bone Marrow Cells / cytology
  • Citrates
  • Edetic Acid
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / biosynthesis
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / blood*
  • Enzyme-Linked Immunosorbent Assay / methods
  • Female
  • Heparin
  • Humans
  • Immunohistochemistry
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Lymphokines / biosynthesis
  • Lymphokines / blood*
  • Male
  • Megakaryocytes / cytology
  • Megakaryocytes / physiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Reference Values
  • Sensitivity and Specificity
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Biomarkers
  • Citrates
  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Indicators and Reagents
  • Lymphokines
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Heparin
  • Edetic Acid