Cooperation of Indian Hedgehog and Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor in Tumor Angiogenesis and Growth in Human Hepatocellular Carcinomas, an Immunohistochemical Study

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The Hedgehog pathway was recently shown to be involved in vascular development and neovascularization in human embryogenesis and disease. However, the role of Hedgehog pathway in modulating tumor angiogenesis is still unexplored. In the current study, we investigated the expression of Indian Hedgehog (Ihh) and vascular endothelial cell growth factor (VEGF) in human hepatocellular carcinomas (HCCs) with immunohistochemical staining and compared the immunoreaction data with various clinicopathologic characteristics. Immunoreactivity of Ihh and VEGF proteins was observed in 61.5% (56/91) and 64.5% (59/91) cases of HCC tumor tissues, respectively, which was considerably higher than the adjacent nonmalignant tissues. Ihh protein was observed predominantly in the cytoplasm of the tumor cells with a staining pattern of which was sparse and dot-like, or circular around the cell membrane. VEGF protein was expressed heterogenously in the cytoplasm in tumor cells and was negative in peritumoral areas in all cases. CD34 showed diffuse staining in the tumor parenchyma in most HCC specimens. The association of expression of Ihh and VEGF with tumor size was statistically significant (P<0.05), but there was no significant association with other clinicopathologic parameters. Moreover, there was a significant association of the expressions of Ihh and VEGF proteins in HCC (r=0.6, P<0.0001), and of Ihh and CD34 staining (r=0.261, P=0.012). Our findings suggest that Ihh is involved in the development of HCC. These findings are also consistent with the concept that cooperation of Ihh and VEGF modulate HCC tumor angiogenesis and growth.

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