Abnormal vasculature, termed tumor vessels, is a hallmark of solid tumors. The degree of angiogenesis is associated with tumor aggressiveness and clinical outcome. Therefore, exact quantification of tumor vessels is useful to evaluate prognosis. Furthermore, selective detection of newly formed tumor vessels within cancer tissues using specific markers raises the possibility of molecular targeted therapy via the inhibition of tumor angiogenesis. Nestin, an intermediate filament protein, is reportedly expressed in repair processes, various neoplasms, and proliferating vascular endothelial cells. Nestin expression is detected in endothelial cells of embryonic capillaries, capillaries of the corpus luteum, which replenishes itself by angiogenesis, and proliferating endothelial progenitor cells, but not in mature endothelial cells. Therefore, expression of nestin is relatively limited to proliferating vascular endothelial cells and endothelial progenitor cells. Nestin expression is also reported in blood vessels within glioblastoma, prostate cancer, colorectal cancer, and pancreatic cancer, and its expression is more specific for newly formed blood vessels than other endothelial cell markers. Nestin-positive blood vessels form smaller vessels with high proliferation activity in tumors. Knockdown of nestin in vascular endothelial cells suppresses endothelial cell growth and tumor formation ability of pancreatic cancers in vivo. Using nestin to more accurately evaluate microvessel density in cancer specimens may be a novel prognostic indicator. Furthermore, nestin-targeted therapy may suppress tumor proliferation via inhibition of angiogenesis in numerous malignancies, including pancreatic cancer. In this review article, we focus on nestin as a novel angiogenesis marker and possible therapeutic target via inhibition of tumor angiogenesis.
Keywords: Nestin, Angiogenesis, Molecular targeting therapy, Gastrointestinal cancer, Pancreatic cancer, Microvessel density, CD34, CD31, Factor VIII