Significance of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF)-C and VEGF-D in the Progression of Cutaneous Melanoma

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Abstract

Introduction.

Induction of tumor lymphangiogenesis by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-C and VEGF-D promotes metastasis in many human cancers.

Aim.

The aim of this study was to examine the role of VEGF-C and VEGF-D in lymphangiogenesis and lymph node metastasis in patients with cutaneous melanoma.

Materials and Methods.

Fifty-four melanoma specimens (18 with lymph node metastasis, 36 nonmetastatic) were investigated by immunostaining for VEGF-C, VEGF-D, and for lymphatic endothelial marker D2-40. VEGF-C and VEGF-D expression was assessed as a percentage and intensity of stained tumor cells, tumor-associated macrophages and fibroblasts. The quantification of lymphangiogenesis was conducted by computer-assisted morphometric analysis.

Results.

The expressions of both VEGF-C and VEGF-D in tumor cells were significantly higher in lymph node metastatic melanomas compared with nonmetastatic melanomas (P = .015 VEGF-C; P = .005 VEGF-D). There was no statistically significant difference between metastatic and nonmetastatic melanomas regarding the expression of VEGF-C and VEGF-D in macrophages and fibroblasts. Metastatic melanomas showed a significantly higher intratumoral and peritumoral lymphatic vessel density (LVD) compared with nonmetastatic melanomas (P = .000 intratumoral, P = .000 peritumoral). Melanomas with VEGF-C positive tumor cells showed a significantly higher intratumoral and peritumoral LVD compared with VEGF-C negative tumor cells group of melanomas (P = .006 intratumoral, P = .010 peritumoral). VEGF-C expression in macrophages, fibroblasts, as well as VEGF-D expression in tumor cells, macrophages, and fibroblasts, showed no correlation with the intratumoral and peritumoral LVD.

Conclusions.

Our findings show the significance of VEGF-C in tumor cells in the induction of intratumoral and peritumoral lymphangiogenesis. This study suggests that both VEGF-C and VEGF-D in tumor cells promote lymph node metastasis, and that the immunohistochemical analysis of expression can be a useful tool for predicting clinical behavior of cutaneous melanoma.

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