Prognostic value of tumour vascularity in metastatic melanoma and association of blood vessel density with vascular endothelial growth factor expression

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Tumour angiogenesis is essential for tumour growth and metastasis. Several lines of evidence indicate that vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a major regulator both of physiological and pathological angiogenesis. In this study we assessed the blood vessel density and VEGF expression of 94 melanoma metastases of 70 patients by immunohistochemistry, utilizing antibodies against human platelet endothelial cell adhesion molecule-1 (PECAM-1, CD31) and VEGF. The number of blood vessels ranged from 4 to 131 vessels/high power field (HPF), with a mean value of 32 vessels/HPF (± 21) and a median of 29 vessels/ HPF. Survival since diagnosis of the primary disease and from the start of chemoimmunotherapy, as well as the disease-free survival period, was significantly shorter in the high vascularity group of patients compared with the low vascularity group (P- 0.05 and P < 0.01, respectively). A high overall expression of VEGF in the metastatic melanoma samples was observed. The degree of VEGF expression appeared to have a strong association with the blood vessel density P = 0.017). This study demonstrates the clinical role of tumour vascularity in the prognosis of patients with metastatic melanoma. In addition, the strong association between vascularity and VEGF expression suggests a crucial role for this growth factor in the neovascu-larization of metastatic melanoma.

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