Circulating levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), matrix metalloproteinase-3 (MMP-3), and BCL-2 in malignant melanoma

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Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a critical regulator of angiogenesis that stimulates proliferation, migration, and metastasis of melanoma. In literature, all studies concerning influences of matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) and antiapoptotic proteins on VEGF-induced angiogenesis in melanoma patients have been performed in tissue scale in melanoma. The objective of this study was to determine the value of circulating serum VEGF and its possible mechanisms of angiogenesis by circulating VEGF, MMP-3, and Bcl-2 in patients with melanoma. Fifty-one patients with cutaneous melanoma pathologically verified at different stages, and eighteen healthy controls were investigated. Serum VEGF, MMP-3, and Bcl-2 levels were quantitatively analyzed by ELISA. The serum VEGF (P = 0.034) and Bcl-2 (P = 0.005) levels were significantly higher in patients with melanoma than in the control group. However, there was no significant difference in the serum MMP-3 level between melanoma patients and controls (P = 0.51). The serum levels of VEGF were significantly influenced only by Breslow thickness (P = 0.045) and mitosis (0.039) and were not positively correlated with the stage of the disease. Among serum parameters, a significant relationship was found only between serum levels of VEGF and MMP-3 (r = 0.32, P = 0.023). In conclusion, our study demonstrates increased concentrations of VEGF and Bcl-2, but not MMP-3, in serum of melanoma patients regardless of the stage of the disease. VEGF may be a potential endothelial cell growth and survival factor. The mechanism of VEGF regulation of angiogenesis may be in part due to enhanced proliferation and survival of endothelial cells by differential expression of antiapoptotic genes and in part by activation of MMPs.

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