Angiogenesis modifications related with cetuximab plus irinotecan as anticancer treatment in advanced colorectal cancer patients

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Abstract

Introduction

Angiogenesis has been correlated with increased invasion and metastases in a variety of human neoplasms. Inadequate inhibition of the growth of tumor microvessels by anticancer agents may result in treatment failure, rated clinically as progressive or stable disease. We designed this trial to investigate the modification of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and interferon-γ (IFN-γ) in advanced colorectal cancer patients during treatment with a weekly combination of cetuximab plus irinotecan.

Materials and methods

Forty-five metastatic colorectal cancer patients were prospectively evaluated for circulating levels of VEGF and IFN-γ during the treatment with cetuximab (initial dose of 400 mg/m2, followed by weekly infusions of 250 mg/m2) plus weekly irinotecan (90 mg/m2). The circulating levels of the cytokines were assessed at the following time points: just before and at 1, 21, 50 and 92 days after the start of cetuximab plus irinotecan treatment.

Results

Basal serum VEGF median levels were significantly decreased just at the first day (after the first treatment infusion (P=0.016). The VEGF persisted at the following time points reaching the highest statistical significance 92 days after the first infusion (P < 0.0001). On the contrary, IFN-γ values showed a statistical significant increase one day after the first infusion (P < 0.0001). This effect persisted 21 days after the treatment start (P=0.001), but was no more evident at the following time points. Moreover, a linear regression model with variance analysis showed a significant negative correlation between VEGF and IFN-γ values 1, 21 and 50 days after the treatment beginning (P=0.002, 0.001 and 0.047, respectively).

Conclusions

This study suggests that a cetuximab may induce a modulation of VEGF circulating levels. The reduction of VEGF serum levels is a sudden and long lasting phenomenon. Moreover, in our study we identified a IFN-γ increase, even if the specific role of this behavior remains to be investigated.

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