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1.  Role of renal microcirculation in experimental renovascular disease 
Nephrology Dialysis Transplantation  2009;25(4):1079-1087.
Background. Renal artery stenosis (RAS) causes renal injury partly via microvascular (MV) endothelial dysfunction and damage. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is crucial for preservation of microvasculature and promotes vascular proliferation and endothelial repair. We have previously shown that MV rarefaction is associated with decreased VEGF in the kidney exposed to chronic RAS, accompanied by deteriorated renal function and fibrosis. We hypothesized that preserving the renal microcirculation in the stenotic kidney will halt the progression of renal damage.
Methods. Unilateral RAS was induced in 16 pigs. In eight, VEGF (0.05 micrograms/kg) was infused intra-renally at the onset of RAS. After 6 weeks, single-kidney haemodynamics and function were assessed using in vivo multi-detector computed tomography (CT). Renal microvessels, angiogenic pathways and morphology were investigated ex vivo using micro-CT, real-time PCR and histology.
Results. Blood pressure and degree of RAS was similar in RAS and RAS + VEGF pigs. Single-kidney renal blood flow (RBF) and glomerular filtration rate (GFR) were reduced in RAS compared to Normal (221.1 ± 46.5 and 29.9 ± 3.8 vs. 522.5 ± 60.9 and 49.3 ± 3.4 mL/min, respectively, P < 0.05), accompanied by decreased cortical MV density and increased renal fibrosis. Pre-emptive administration of VEGF preserved MV architecture, attenuated fibrosis and normalized RBF and GFR (510.8 ± 50.9 and 39.9.1 ± 4.1 mL/min, P = not significant vs. Normal).
Conclusions. This study underscores the importance of the renal microcirculation in renovascular disease. Intra-renal administration of VEGF preserved renal MV architecture and function of the stenotic kidney, which in turn preserved renal haemodynamics and function and decreased renal fibrosis. These observations suggest that preventing renal MV loss may be a potential target for therapeutic approaches for patients with chronic renovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC2902859  PMID: 19934087
computerized tomography; microcirculation; renal artery stenosis; renal haemodynamics; VEGF
2.  A Novel Tumor-Promoting Function Residing in the 5′ Non-coding Region of vascular endothelial growth factor mRNA 
PLoS Medicine  2008;5(5):e94.
Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF) is one of the key regulators of tumor development, hence it is considered to be an important therapeutic target for cancer treatment. However, clinical trials have suggested that anti-VEGF monotherapy was less effective than standard chemotherapy. On the basis of the evidence, we hypothesized that vegf mRNA may have unrecognized function(s) in cancer cells.
Methods and Findings
Knockdown of VEGF with vegf-targeting small-interfering (si) RNAs increased susceptibility of human colon cancer cell line (HCT116) to apoptosis caused with 5-fluorouracil, etoposide, or doxorubicin. Recombinant human VEGF165 did not completely inhibit this apoptosis. Conversely, overexpression of VEGF165 increased resistance to anti-cancer drug-induced apoptosis, while an anti-VEGF165-neutralizing antibody did not completely block the resistance. We prepared plasmids encoding full-length vegf mRNA with mutation of signal sequence, vegf mRNAs lacking untranslated regions (UTRs), or mutated 5′UTRs. Using these plasmids, we revealed that the 5′UTR of vegf mRNA possessed anti-apoptotic activity. The 5′UTR-mediated activity was not affected by a protein synthesis inhibitor, cycloheximide. We established HCT116 clones stably expressing either the vegf 5′UTR or the mutated 5′UTR. The clones expressing the 5′UTR, but not the mutated one, showed increased anchorage-independent growth in vitro and formed progressive tumors when implanted in athymic nude mice. Microarray and quantitative real-time PCR analyses indicated that the vegf 5′UTR-expressing tumors had up-regulated anti-apoptotic genes, multidrug-resistant genes, and growth-promoting genes, while pro-apoptotic genes were down-regulated. Notably, expression of signal transducers and activators of transcription 1 (STAT1) was markedly repressed in the 5′UTR-expressing tumors, resulting in down-regulation of a STAT1-responsive cluster of genes (43 genes). As a result, the tumors did not respond to interferon (IFN)α therapy at all. We showed that stable silencing of endogenous vegf mRNA in HCT116 cells enhanced both STAT1 expression and IFNα responses.
These findings suggest that cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and imply that both vegf mRNA and its protein may synergistically promote the malignancy of tumor cells. Therefore, combination of anti-vegf transcript strategies, such as siRNA-based gene silencing, with anti-VEGF antibody treatment may improve anti-cancer therapies that target VEGF.
Shigetada Teshima-Kondo and colleagues find that cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and that vegf mRNA and its protein may synergistically promote the malignancy of tumor cells.
Editors' Summary
Normally, throughout life, cell division (which produces new cells) and cell death are carefully balanced to keep the body in good working order. But sometimes cells acquire changes (mutations) in their genetic material that allow them to divide uncontrollably to form cancers—disorganized masses of cells. When a cancer is small, it uses the body's existing blood supply to get the oxygen and nutrients it needs for its growth and survival. But, when it gets bigger, it has to develop its own blood supply. This process is called angiogenesis. It involves the release by the cancer cells of proteins called growth factors that bind to other proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels). The receptors then send signals into the endothelial cells that tell them to make new blood vessels. One important angiogenic growth factor is “vascular endothelial growth factor” (VEGF). Tumors that make large amounts of VEGF tend to be more abnormal and more aggressive than those that make less VEGF. In addition, high levels of VEGF in the blood are often associated with poor responses to chemotherapy, drug regimens designed to kill cancer cells.
Why Was This Study Done?
Because VEGF is a key regulator of tumor development, several anti-VEGF therapies—drugs that target VEGF and its receptors—have been developed. These therapies strongly suppress the growth of tumor cells in the laboratory and in animals but, when used alone, are no better at increasing the survival times of patients with cancer than standard chemotherapy. Scientists are now looking for an explanation for this disappointing result. Like all proteins, cells make VEGF by “transcribing” its DNA blueprint into an mRNA copy (vegf mRNA), the coding region of which is “translated” into the VEGF protein. Other, “noncoding” regions of vegf mRNA control when and where VEGF is made. Scientists have recently discovered that the noncoding regions of some mRNAs suppress tumor development. In this study, therefore, the researchers investigate whether vegf mRNA has an unrecognized function in tumor cells that could explain the disappointing clinical results of anti-VEGF therapeutics.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first used a technique called small interfering (si) RNA knockdown to stop VEGF expression in human colon cancer cells growing in dishes. siRNAs are short RNAs that bind to and destroy specific mRNAs in cells, thereby preventing the translation of those mRNAs into proteins. The treatment of human colon cancer cells with vegf-targeting siRNAs made the cells more sensitive to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis (a type of cell death). This sensitivity was only partly reversed by adding VEGF to the cells. By contrast, cancer cells engineered to make more vegf mRNA had increased resistance to chemotherapy-induced apoptosis. Treatment of these cells with an antibody that inhibited VEGF function did not completely block this resistance. Together, these results suggest that both vegf mRNA and VEGF protein have anti-apoptotic effects. The researchers show that the anti-apoptotic activity of vegf mRNA requires a noncoding part of the mRNA called the 5′ UTR, and that whereas human colon cancer cells expressing this 5′ UTR form tumors in mice, cells expressing a mutated 5′ UTR do not. Finally, they report that the expression of several pro-apoptotic genes and of an anti-tumor pathway known as the interferon/STAT1 tumor suppression pathway is down-regulated in tumors that express the vegf 5′ UTR.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that some cancer cells have a survival system that is regulated by vegf mRNA and are the first to show that a 5′UTR of mRNA can promote tumor growth. They indicate that VEGF and its mRNA work together to promote their development and to increase their resistance to chemotherapy drugs. They suggest that combining therapies that prevent the production of vegf mRNA (for example, siRNA-based gene silencing) with therapies that block the function of VEGF might improve survival times for patients whose tumors overexpress VEGF.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
This study is discussed further in a PLoS Medicine Perspective by Hughes and Jones
The US National Cancer Institute provides information about all aspects of cancer, including information on angiogenesis, and on bevacizumab, an anti-VEGF therapeutic (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, from Emory University, provides information on all aspects of cancer, including angiogenesis (in several languages)
Cancer Research UK also provides basic information about what causes cancers and how they develop, grow, and spread, including information about angiogenesis
Wikipedia has pages on VEGF and on siRNA (note that Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC2386836  PMID: 18494554
Experimental and clinical studies suggest that the damage of the renal microvascular function and architecture may participate in the early steps of renal injury in chronic renal disease, irrespective of the cause. This supporting evidence has provided the impetus to targeting the renal microvasculature as an attempt to interfere with the progressive nature of the disease process.
Chronic renovascular disease is often associated with renal microvascular dysfunction, damage, loss, and defective renal angiogenesis associated with progressive renal dysfunction and damage. It is possible that damage of the renal microvasculature in renovascular disease constitutes an initiating event for renal injury and contributes towards progressive and later on irreversible renal injury. Recent studies have suggested that protection of the renal microcirculation can slow or halt the progression of renal injury in this disease.
This brief review will focus on the therapeutic potential and feasibility of using angiogenic cytokines to protect the kidney microvasculature in chronic renovascular disease. There is limited but provocative evidence showing that stimulation of vascular proliferation and repair using vascular endothelial growth factor or hepatocyte growth factor can slow the progression of renal damage, stabilize renal function, and protect the renal parenchyma. Such interventions may potentially constitute a sole strategy to preserve renal function and/or a co-adjuvant tool to improve the success of current therapeutic approaches in renovascular disease.
PMCID: PMC3605220  PMID: 23428409
kidney; cytokines; angiogenesis; renovascular disease; microcirculation
4.  Limitations of the dorsal skinfold window chamber model in evaluating anti-angiogenic therapy during early phase of angiogenesis 
Vascular Cell  2014;6:17.
Angiogenesis is an essential process during tumor development and growth. The murine dorsal skinfold window chamber model has been used for the study of both tumor microvasculature and other vascular diseases, including the study of anti-angiogenic agents in cancer therapy. Hyperspectral imaging of oxygen status of the microvasculature has not been widely used to evaluate response to inhibition of angiogenesis in early tumor cell induced vascular development. This study demonstrates the use of two different classes of anti-angiogenic agents, one targeting the Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor (VEGF) pathway involved with vessel sprouting and the other targeting the Angiopoietin/Tie2 pathway involved in vascular destabilization. Studies evaluated the tumor microvascular response to anti-angiogenic inhibitors in the highly angiogenic renal cell carcinoma induced angiogenesis model.
Human renal cell carcinoma, Caki-2 cells, were implanted in the murine skinfold window chamber. Mice were treated with either VEGF pathway targeted small molecule inhibitor Sunitinib (100 mg/kg) or with an anti-Ang-2 monoclonal antibody (10 mg/kg) beginning the day of window chamber surgery and tumor cell implantation. Hyperspectral imaging of hemoglobin saturation was used to evaluate both the development and oxygenation of the tumor microvasculature. Tumor volume over time was also assessed over an 11-day period post surgery.
The window chamber model was useful to demonstrate the inhibition of angiogenesis using the VEGF pathway targeted agent Sunitinib. Results show impairment of tumor microvascular development, reduced oxygenation of tumor-associated vasculature and impairment of tumor volume growth compared to control. On the other hand, this model failed to demonstrate the anti-angiogenic effect of the Ang-2 targeted agent. Follow up experiments suggest that the initial surgery of the window chamber model may interfere with such an agent thus skewing the actual effects on angiogenesis.
Results show that this model has great potential to evaluate anti-VEGF, or comparable, targeted agents; however the mere protocol of the window chamber model interferes with proper evaluation of Ang-2 targeted agents. The limitations of this in vivo model in evaluating the response of tumor vasculature to anti-angiogenic agents are discussed.
PMCID: PMC4123308  PMID: 25101168
Angiogenesis; Angiopoietin-2; Anti-angiogenic therapy; Dorsal skinfold window chamber model; Vascular endothelial growth factor
5.  Computational Model of Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Spatial Distribution in Muscle and Pro-Angiogenic Cell Therapy 
PLoS Computational Biology  2006;2(9):e127.
Members of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family of proteins are critical regulators of angiogenesis. VEGF concentration gradients are important for activation and chemotactic guidance of capillary sprouting, but measurement of these gradients in vivo is not currently possible. We have constructed a biophysically and molecularly detailed computational model to study microenvironmental transport of two isoforms of VEGF in rat extensor digitorum longus skeletal muscle under in vivo conditions. Using parameters based on experimental measurements, the model includes: VEGF secretion from muscle fibers; binding to the extracellular matrix; binding to and activation of endothelial cell surface VEGF receptors; and internalization. For 2-D cross sections of tissue, we analyzed predicted VEGF distributions, gradients, and receptor binding. Significant VEGF gradients (up to 12% change in VEGF concentration over 10 μm) were predicted in resting skeletal muscle with uniform VEGF secretion, due to non-uniform capillary distribution. These relative VEGF gradients were not sensitive to extracellular matrix composition, or to the overall VEGF expression level, but were dependent on VEGF receptor density and affinity, and internalization rate parameters. VEGF upregulation in a subset of fibers increased VEGF gradients, simulating transplantation of pro-angiogenic myoblasts, a possible therapy for ischemic diseases. The number and relative position of overexpressing fibers determined the VEGF gradients and distribution of VEGF receptor activation. With total VEGF expression level in the tissue unchanged, concentrating overexpression into a small number of adjacent fibers can increase the number of capillaries activated. The VEGF concentration gradients predicted for resting muscle (average 3% VEGF/10 μm) is sufficient for cellular sensing; the tip cell of a vessel sprout is approximately 50 μm long. The VEGF gradients also result in heterogeneity in the activation of blood vessel VEGF receptors. This first model of VEGF tissue transport and heterogeneity provides a platform for the design and evaluation of therapeutic approaches.
It is not currently possible to experimentally quantify the gradients of protein concentration in the extracellular space in vivo. However, the concentration gradients of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are essential for both initiation and directed guidance of new blood vessels. The authors develop a computational model of VEGF transport in tissue in vivo (skeletal muscle, though the method is applicable to other tissues and other proteins) with realistic geometry and including biophysical interactions of VEGF, its receptors, and the extracellular matrix. Using this model, the authors predict for the first time the distribution of VEGF concentration and VEGF receptor activation throughout the tissue. VEGF concentration gradients are significant, up to 12% change in VEGF concentration over 10 μm in resting muscle. Transplanting VEGF-overexpressing myocytes (for therapeutic induction of blood vessel growth) increases the gradients significantly. Endothelial cells in sprouting vessels are approximately 50 μm long, and therefore the predicted gradients across the cell are high and sufficient for chemotactic guidance of the new vessels. The VEGF concentration gradients also result in significant heterogeneity in the activation of VEGF receptors on blood vessels throughout the tissue, a possible reason for the sporadic nature of sprout initiation.
PMCID: PMC1570371  PMID: 17002494
6.  Human head and neck squamous cell carcinoma cells are both targets and effectors for the angiogenic cytokine, VEGF 
Journal of cellular biochemistry  2008;105(5):1202-1210.
Former vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) - head and neck squamous cell carcinoma (HNSCC) studies have focused on VEGF’s contributions toward tumor-associated angiogenesis. Previously, we have shown that HNSCC cells produce high levels of VEGF. We therefore hypothesized that VEGF serves a biphasic role i.e. proangiogenic and protumorigenic in HNSCC pathogenesis. Western blots confirmed the presence of VEGF’s primary mitogenic receptors, VEGFR-2/KDR and VEGFR-1/Flt-1 in cultured HNSCC cells. Subsequent studies evaluated VEGF’s effects on HNSCC intracellular signaling, mitogenesis, invasive capacities and matrix metalloproteinases (MMPs) activities. Introduction of hrVEGF165 initiated ROS-mediated intracellular signaling, resulting in kinase activation and phosphorylation of KDR and Erk1/2. As high endogenous VEGF production rendered HNSCC cells refractory to exogenous VEGF’s mitogenic effects, siRNA was employed, inhibiting endogenous VEGF production for up to 96h. Relative to transfection vector matched controls, siRNA treated HNSCC cells showed a significant decrease in proliferation at both 30nM and 50nM siRNA doses. Addition of exogenous hrVEGF165 (30ng/ml and 50ng/ml) to siRNA-silenced HNSCC cells resulted in dose-dependent increases in cell proliferation. Cell invasion assays showed VEGF is a potent HNSCC chemoattractant and demonstrated that VEGF pretreatment enhanced invasiveness of HNSCC cells. Conditioned media from VEGF challenged HNSCC cells showed a moderate increase in gelatinase activity. Our results demonstrate, for the first time, that HNSCC cells are both targets and effectors for VEGF. These data introduce the prospect that VEGF targeted therapy has the potential to fulfill both anti-angiogenic and anti-tumorigenic functions.
PMCID: PMC2643031  PMID: 18802921
VEGF; KDR; Flt-1; Head and neck squamous cell carcinoma; intracellular signaling
7.  Targeting Neuropilin-1 to Inhibit VEGF Signaling in Cancer: Comparison of Therapeutic Approaches 
PLoS Computational Biology  2006;2(12):e180.
Angiogenesis (neovascularization) plays a crucial role in a variety of physiological and pathological conditions including cancer, cardiovascular disease, and wound healing. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a critical regulator of angiogenesis. Multiple VEGF receptors are expressed on endothelial cells, including signaling receptor tyrosine kinases (VEGFR1 and VEGFR2) and the nonsignaling co-receptor Neuropilin-1. Neuropilin-1 binds only the isoform of VEGF responsible for pathological angiogenesis (VEGF165), and is thus a potential target for inhibiting VEGF signaling. Using the first molecularly detailed computational model of VEGF and its receptors, we have shown previously that the VEGFR–Neuropilin interactions explain the observed differential effects of VEGF isoforms on VEGF signaling in vitro, and demonstrated potent VEGF inhibition by an antibody to Neuropilin-1 that does not block ligand binding but blocks subsequent receptor coupling. In the present study, we extend that computational model to simulation of in vivo VEGF transport and binding, and predict the in vivo efficacy of several Neuropilin-targeted therapies in inhibiting VEGF signaling: (a) blocking Neuropilin-1 expression; (b) blocking VEGF binding to Neuropilin-1; (c) blocking Neuropilin–VEGFR coupling. The model predicts that blockade of Neuropilin–VEGFR coupling is significantly more effective than other approaches in decreasing VEGF–VEGFR2 signaling. In addition, tumor types with different receptor expression levels respond differently to each of these treatments. In designing human therapeutics, the mechanism of attacking the target plays a significant role in the outcome: of the strategies tested here, drugs with similar properties to the Neuropilin-1 antibody are predicted to be most effective. The tumor type and the microenvironment of the target tissue are also significant in determining therapeutic efficacy of each of the treatments studied.
Neuropilin is a co-receptor for some of the isoforms of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family. The presence of Neuropilin on endothelial or other cells increases binding of these isoforms to their signaling receptor VEGFR2, thus increasing pro-angiogenesis signaling and stimulating vascular growth. Neuropilin is thus a suitable target for anti-angiogenesis therapy, which holds promise for the treatment of vasculature-dependent diseases such as cancer and diabetic retinopathy. In this study, Mac Gabhann and Popel perform computational simulations of VEGF transport in breast cancer, using a previously validated model of VEGF–VEGF receptor interactions, as well as geometrical information on the tumor itself—tumor cells, vasculature, and extracellular matrix. Three different molecular therapies targeting Neuropilin are tested in silico, and the simulations predict that one of these therapies will be effective at reducing VEGFR2 signaling in certain types (or subtypes) of tumors, while the others will not. Thus, we demonstrate that identification of a target molecule is not sufficient; different therapeutic strategies targeting the same molecule may result in different outcomes.
PMCID: PMC1761657  PMID: 17196035
8.  Aflibercept in wet AMD: specific role and optimal use 
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a naturally occurring glycoprotein in the body that acts as a growth factor for endothelial cells. It regulates angiogenesis, enhances vascular permeability, and plays a major role in wet age-related macular degeneration. The consistent association between choroidal neovascularization and increased VEGF expression provides a strong reason for exploring the therapeutic potential of anti-VEGF agents in the treatment of this disorder. Blockade of VEGF activity is currently the most effective strategy for arresting choroidal angiogenesis and reducing vascular permeability, which is frequently the main cause of visual acuity deterioration. In recent years, a number of other molecules have been developed to increase the efficacy and to prolong the durability of the anti-VEGF effect. Aflibercept (EYLEA®; Regeneron Pharmaceutical Inc and Bayer), also named VEGF Trap-eye, is the most recent member of the anti-VEGF armamentarium that was approved by the US Food and Drug Administration in November 2011. Because of its high binding affinity and long duration of action, this drug is considered to be a promising clinically proven anti-VEGF agent for the treatment of wet maculopathy.
This article reviews the current literature and clinical trial data regarding the efficacy and the pharmacological properties of VEGF-Trap eye and describes the possible advantages of its use over the currently used “older” anti-VEGF drugs.
For this review, a search of PubMed from January 1989 to May 2013 was performed using the following terms (or combination of terms): vascular endothelial growth factors, VEGF, age-related macular degeneration, VEGF-Trap eye in wet AMD, VEGF-Trap eye in diabetic retinopathy, VEGF-Trap eye in retinal vein occlusions, aflibercept. Studies were limited to those published in English.
Results and conclusion
Two Phase III clinical trials, VEGF Trap-eye Investigation of Efficacy and Safety in Wet AMD (VIEW) 1 and 2, comparing VEGF Trap-eye to ranibizumab demonstrated the noninferiority of this novel compound. The clinical equivalence of this compound against ranibizumab is maintained even when the injections are administered at 8-week intervals, which indicates the potential to reduce the risk of monthly intravitreal injections and the burden of monthly monitoring.
PMCID: PMC3749085  PMID: 23990705
aflibercept; AMD; neovascularization; VEGF; VEGF inhibition; VEGF-Trap eye
9.  Delayed Administration of a Bio-Engineered Zinc-Finger VEGF-A Gene Therapy Is Neuroprotective and Attenuates Allodynia Following Traumatic Spinal Cord Injury 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(5):e96137.
Following spinal cord injury (SCI) there are drastic changes that occur in the spinal microvasculature, including ischemia, hemorrhage, endothelial cell death and blood-spinal cord barrier disruption. Vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A) is a pleiotropic factor recognized for its pro-angiogenic properties; however, VEGF has recently been shown to provide neuroprotection. We hypothesized that delivery of AdV-ZFP-VEGF – an adenovirally delivered bio-engineered zinc-finger transcription factor that promotes endogenous VEGF-A expression – would result in angiogenesis, neuroprotection and functional recovery following SCI. This novel VEGF gene therapy induces the endogenous production of multiple VEGF-A isoforms; a critical factor for proper vascular development and repair. Briefly, female Wistar rats – under cyclosporin immunosuppression – received a 35 g clip-compression injury and were administered AdV-ZFP-VEGF or AdV-eGFP at 24 hours post-SCI. qRT-PCR and Western Blot analysis of VEGF-A mRNA and protein, showed significant increases in VEGF-A expression in AdV-ZFP-VEGF treated animals (p<0.001 and p<0.05, respectively). Analysis of NF200, TUNEL, and RECA-1 indicated that AdV-ZFP-VEGF increased axonal preservation (p<0.05), reduced cell death (p<0.01), and increased blood vessels (p<0.01), respectively. Moreover, AdV-ZFP-VEGF resulted in a 10% increase in blood vessel proliferation (p<0.001). Catwalk™ analysis showed AdV-ZFP-VEGF treatment dramatically improves hindlimb weight support (p<0.05) and increases hindlimb swing speed (p<0.02) when compared to control animals. Finally, AdV-ZFP-VEGF administration provided a significant reduction in allodynia (p<0.01). Overall, the results of this study indicate that AdV-ZFP-VEGF administration can be delivered in a clinically relevant time-window following SCI (24 hours) and provide significant molecular and functional benefits.
PMCID: PMC4028194  PMID: 24846143
10.  Pharmacokinetics and pharmacodynamics of VEGF-neutralizing antibodies 
BMC Systems Biology  2011;5:193.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent regulator of angiogenesis, and its role in cancer biology has been widely studied. Many cancer therapies target angiogenesis, with a focus being on VEGF-mediated signaling such as antibodies to VEGF. However, it is difficult to predict the effects of VEGF-neutralizing agents. We have developed a whole-body model of VEGF kinetics and transport under pathological conditions (in the presence of breast tumor). The model includes two major VEGF isoforms VEGF121 and VEGF165, receptors VEGFR1, VEGFR2 and co-receptors Neuropilin-1 and Neuropilin-2. We have added receptors on parenchymal cells (muscle fibers and tumor cells), and incorporated experimental data for the cell surface density of receptors on the endothelial cells, myocytes, and tumor cells. The model is applied to investigate the action of VEGF-neutralizing agents (called "anti-VEGF") in the treatment of cancer.
Through a sensitivity study, we examine how model parameters influence the level of free VEGF in the tumor, a measure of the response to VEGF-neutralizing drugs. We investigate the effects of systemic properties such as microvascular permeability and lymphatic flow, and of drug characteristics such as the clearance rate and binding affinity. We predict that increasing microvascular permeability in the tumor above 10-5 cm/s elicits the undesired effect of increasing tumor interstitial VEGF concentration beyond even the baseline level. We also examine the impact of the tumor microenvironment, including receptor expression and internalization, as well as VEGF secretion. We find that following anti-VEGF treatment, the concentration of free VEGF in the tumor can vary between 7 and 233 pM, with a dependence on both the density of VEGF receptors and co-receptors and the rate of neuropilin internalization on tumor cells. Finally, we predict that free VEGF in the tumor is reduced following anti-VEGF treatment when VEGF121 comprises at least 25% of the VEGF secreted by tumor cells.
This study explores the optimal drug characteristics required for an anti-VEGF agent to have a therapeutic effect and the tumor-specific properties that influence the response to therapy. Our model provides a framework for investigating the use of VEGF-neutralizing drugs for personalized medicine treatment strategies.
PMCID: PMC3229549  PMID: 22104283
11.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor-C Promotes Alloimmunity by Amplifying Antigen-Presenting Cell Maturation and Lymphangiogenesis 
This study showed that VEGF-C may potentially serve as an important target in corneal transplant by modulating corneal alloimmunity at three different levels. Anti-VEGF-C inhibits the ingrowth of lymphatic and blood vessel, reduces the trafficking of APC, and, interestingly, inhibits APC maturation.
To investigate the role of anti–vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-C therapy in corneal graft survival and concomitant suppression of hem- and lymph-angiogenesis.
Corneal suture model in BALB/c mice was placed and immunohistochemical staining was performed with CD31/PECAM-1 and LYVE-1 to quantify the level of blood and lymphatic vessels. Corneal transplants were done in BALB/c mice from C57BL/6 mice donors; grafts were subsequently scored for opacity. VEGF-C was blocked in the angiogenesis and transplant model using neutralizing monoclonal anti-VEGF-C (VGX-100) by intraperitoneal injection. To determine the function of VEGF-C in maturation of antigen-presenting cells (APCs), bone marrow–derived dendritic cells were generated and matured in the presence or absence of VEGF-C.
VEGF-C expression was demonstrated to be markedly upregulated in corneal graft rejection. VEGF-C blockade, through administration of a VEGF-C blocking monoclonal antibody, suppresses corneal angiogenic responses, inhibits trafficking and maturation of APCs, and significantly improves allotransplant survival.
These data suggest VEGF-C as a potentially important target in corneal transplant pharmacotherapy and immunobiology.
PMCID: PMC3339906  PMID: 22281820
12.  Differential effects of VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 inhibition on tumor metastases based on host organ environment 
Cancer research  2010;70(21):8357-8367.
Tumors induce new blood vessel growth primarily from host organ microvascular endothelial cells (ECs), and microvasculature differs significantly between the lung and liver. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF or VEGF-A) promotion of tumor angiogenesis is thought to be mediated primarily by VEGF receptor (VEGFR) 2. In this study, VEGFR-2 antibody (DC101) inhibited growth of RenCa renal cell carcinoma lung metastases by 26% while VEGFR-1 antibody (MF-1) had no effect. However, VEGFR-2 neutralization had no effect on RenCa liver metastases while VEGFR-1 neutralization decreased RenCa liver metastases by 31%. For CT26 colon carcinoma liver metastases, inhibition of both VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 was required to induce growth delay. VEGFR-1 or VEGFR-2 inhibition decreased tumor burden not by preventing the establishment of micrometastases but rather by preventing vascularization and growth of micrometastases by 55% and 43%, respectively. VEGF induced greater phosphorylation of VEGFR-2 in lung ECs and of VEGFR-1 in liver ECs. EC proliferation, migration, and capillary tube formation in vitro were suppressed more by VEGFR-2 inhibition for lung EC and more by VEGFR-1 inhibition for liver EC. Collectively, our results indicate that liver metastases are more reliant on VEGFR-1 than lung metastases to mediate angiogenesis due to differential activity of VEGFRs on liver EC versus lung EC. Thus, therapies inhibiting specific VEGF receptors should consider the targeted sites of metastatic disease.
PMCID: PMC2970713  PMID: 20978198
13.  Expression and Role of VEGF in the Adult Retinal Pigment Epithelium 
Motivated by the increasing use of anti-VEGF therapies and the many nonvascular functions of VEGF, this study explores the effects of VEGF neutralization on RPE structure, survival, and gene expression both in vitro and in vivo.
Despite a lack of active angiogenesis, VEGF is expressed in nearly every adult tissue, and recent evidence suggests that VEGF may serve as a survival factor for both vascular and nonvascular tissues. VEGF blockade is a widely used treatment for neovascular diseases such as wet age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Therefore, it was sought in this study to evaluate the expression and role of endogenous VEGF in RPE.
VEGF and VEGFR2 expression in the murine retina were assessed during development. Bevacizumab was used to neutralize VEGF in ARPE-19 cells, and the effects on cell survival and apical microvill were assessed by TUNEL and SEM, respectively. VEGF was systemically neutralized in vivo by adenoviral-mediated overexpression of soluble VEGFR1 (sFlt). RPE and choriocapillaris were analyzed by transmission electron microscopy (TEM). Changes in gene expression were evaluated by quantitative real-time PCR.
VEGF expression was detected in the developing RPE as early as embryonic day (E) 9.5, whereas VEGFR2 expression by RPE began nonuniformly between postnatal (P) day 6.5 and P8.5. VEGF neutralization in vitro led to increased apoptosis and reduced microvilli density and length. Systemic VEGF neutralization led to transient degenerative changes; RPE were vacuolated and separated from photoreceptor outer segments, and choriocapillaris fenestrations were decreased. VEGF levels were elevated in RPE of Ad-sFlt1 mice at day 4 postinfection, and there was increased expression of the neurotrophic factor CD59a at day 14.
These results indicate that VEGF plays a critical role in survival and maintenance of RPE integrity. Potential undesired off-target effects should be considered with chronic use of anti-VEGF agents.
PMCID: PMC3250352  PMID: 22058334
14.  Effects of diabetes mellitus on VEGF- induced proliferation response in bone marrow derived endothelial progenitor cells 
Journal of cardiac surgery  2010;25(5):618-625.
This study examined effects of diabetes mellitus (DM) on cellular proliferation associated with vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)signaling in endothelial progenitor cells (EPC’s)and evaluated protein expression involved in cellular proliferation and pro-apoptotic signaling in chronically ischemic myocardium.
Insulin dependent DM was induced in yucatan miniswine with alloxan. Eight weeks after induction, chronic ischemia was induced by ameroid constrictor placement around the circumflex coronary artery. Seven weeks after ameroid constrictor, perfusion of ischemic territory was measured by isotope-labeled microspheres, and ischemic myocardium was harvested. Bone marrow (BM) samples were harvested from iliac bone and mononuclear cells (MNC’s) were cryopreserved. EPC’s were isolated from cryopreserved MNC’s in control (n=6) and DM swine (n=6). EPC proliferation was assessed.
EPC proliferation was decreased in DM as compared to control (1.02±0.09, 0.40±0.04, p<0.01). VEGF induced EPC proliferation was impaired in DM as compared to control (p<0.01). Expression of ERK protein, an activator of VEGF induced cell proliferation, was decreased. AKT activation, an inhibitor of apoptosis, was decreased, while Bad, an activator of pro-apoptotic signaling, was elevated in the ischemic myocardium from DM. Collateral dependent perfusion was impaired in DM.
Impaired VEGF induced proliferation response in EPC as well as an increase in negative myocardial protein expression for cell proliferation and pro-apoptotic signaling via VEGF could be a therapeutic target to enhance the effects of pro-angiogenesis therapies in DM and other chronic illnesses.
PMCID: PMC2958227  PMID: 20626511
15.  Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor Mediates Intracrine Survival in Human Breast Carcinoma Cells through Internally Expressed VEGFR1/FLT1 
PLoS Medicine  2007;4(6):e186.
While vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression in breast tumors has been correlated with a poor outcome in the pathogenesis of breast cancer, the expression, localization, and function of VEGF receptors VEGFR1 (also known as FLT1) and VEGFR2 (also known as KDR or FLK1), as well as neuropilin 1 (NRP1), in breast cancer are controversial.
Methods and Findings
We investigated the expression and function of VEGF and VEGF receptors in breast cancer cells. We observed that VEGFR1 expression was abundant, VEGFR2 expression was low, and NRP1 expression was variable. MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells, transfected with antisense VEGF cDNA or with siVEGF (VEGF-targeted small interfering RNA), showed a significant reduction in VEGF expression and increased apoptosis as compared to the control cells. Additionally, specifically targeted knockdown of VEGFR1 expression by siRNA (siVEGFR1) significantly decreased the survival of breast cancer cells through down-regulation of protein kinase B (AKT) phosphorylation, while targeted knockdown of VEGFR2 or NRP1 expression had no effect on the survival of these cancer cells. Since a VEGFR1-specific ligand, placenta growth factor (PGF), did not, as expected, inhibit the breast cancer cell apoptosis induced by siVEGF, and since VEGFR1 antibody also had no effects on the survival of these cells, we examined VEGFR1 localization. VEGFR1 was predominantly expressed internally in MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7 breast cancer cells. Specifically, VEGFR1 was found to be colocalized with lamin A/C and was expressed mainly in the nuclear envelope in breast cancer cell lines and primary breast cancer tumors. Breast cancer cells treated with siVEGFR1 showed significantly decreased VEGFR1 expression levels and a lack of VEGFR1 expression in the nuclear envelope.
This study provides, to our knowledge for the first time, evidence of a unique survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF can act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1. These results may lead to an improved strategy for tumor therapy based on the inhibition of angiogenesis.
Shalom Avraham and colleagues' study provides evidence of a survival system in breast cancer cells by which VEGF acts as an internal autocrine survival factor through its binding to VEGFR1.
Editors' Summary
One woman in eight will develop breast cancer during her lifetime. Most of these women live for many years after their diagnosis and many are cured of their cancer. However, sometimes the cancer grows inexorably and spreads (metastasizes) around the body despite the efforts of oncologists. Characteristics of the tumor known as prognostic factors can indicate whether this spreading is likely to happen. Large tumors that have metastasized have a poorer prognosis than small tumors that are confined to the breast. The expression of specific proteins within the tumor also provides prognostic information. One protein whose expression is associated with a poor prognosis is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF stimulates angiogenesis—the growth of new blood vessels. Small tumors get the nutrients needed for their growth from existing blood vessels but large tumors need to organize their own blood supply. They do this, in part, by secreting VEGF. This compound binds to proteins (receptors) on the surface of endothelial cells (the cells lining blood vessels), which then send a signal into the cell instructing it to make new blood vessels. Angiogenesis inhibitors, including molecules that block the activity of VEGF receptors, are being developed for the treatment of cancer.
Why Was This Study Done?
Some breast cancer cell lines (cells isolated from breast cancers and grown in the laboratory) make VEGF and VEGF receptors (VEGFR1, VEGFR2, and neuropilin 1 [NRP1]). But, although some studies have reported an association between VEGFR1 expression in breast tumors and a poor prognosis, other studies have found no expression of VEGFR1 in breast tumors. Consequently, the role of VEGF receptors in breast cancer is unclear. In this study, the researchers analyzed the expression and function of VEGF and its receptors in breast cancer cells to investigate whether and how VEGF helps these cells to survive.
What Did the Researchers Do and Find?
The researchers first examined the expression of VEGF receptors in several human breast cancer cell lines. All of them expressed VEGFR1, some expressed NRP1, but VEGFR2 expression was universally low. They then investigated the function of VEGF and its receptors in two human breast cancer cell lines (MDA-MB-231 and MCF-7). In both cell lines, blocking the expression of VEGF or of VEGFR1 (but not of the other two receptors) reduced cell survival by stimulating a specific process of cell death called apoptosis. Unexpectedly, adding VEGF to the cultures did not reverse the effect of blocking VEGF expression, a result that suggests that VEGF and VEGFR1 do not affect breast cancer cell survival by acting at the cell surface. Accordingly, when the researchers examined where VEGFR1 occurs in the cell, they found it on the membranes around the nucleus of the breast cancer cell lines and not on the cell surface; several primary breast tumors and normal breast tissue had the same localization pattern. Finally, the researchers showed that inhibitors of VEGF action that act at the cell surface did not affect the survival of the breast cancer cell lines.
What Do These Findings Mean?
These findings suggest that VEGF helps breast cancer cells to survive in a unique way: by binding to VEGFR1 inside the cell. In other words, whereas VEGF normally acts as a paracrine growth factor (it is released by one cell and affects another cell), in breast cancer cells it might act as an internal autocrine (intracrine) survival factor, a factor that affects the cells in which it is produced. These findings need confirming in more cell lines and in primary breast cancers but could have important implications for the treatment of breast cancer. Inhibitors of VEGF and VEGFR1 that act inside the cell (small molecule drugs) might block breast cancer growth more effectively than inhibitors that act at the cell surface (for example, proteins that bind to the receptor), because internally acting inhibitors might both kill the tumor directly and have antiangiogenic effects, whereas externally acting inhibitors could only have the second effect.
Additional Information.
Please access these Web sites via the online version of this summary at
US National Cancer Institute information for patients and professionals on breast cancer (in English and Spanish) and on angiogenesis (in English and Spanish)
MedlinePlus Encyclopedia information for patients on breast cancer (in English and Spanish)
CancerQuest, information from Emory University on cancer biology and on angiogenesis and angiogenesis inhibitors (in several languages)
Wikipedia pages on VEGF (note: Wikipedia is a free online encyclopedia that anyone can edit; available in several languages)
PMCID: PMC1885450  PMID: 17550303
16.  Overexpression of both VEGF-A and VEGF-C in gastric cancer correlates with prognosis, and silencing of both is effective to inhibit cancer growth 
Background: Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF)-A and VEGF-C are two important molecules involving in tumor development and metastasis via angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis. However, the combined effect of VEGF-A and VEGF-C on the growth of gastric cancer (GC) is not clear. Methods: The correlations of VEGF-A and VEGF-C expressions with clinicopathologic parameters and prognosis were evaluated in patients with GC. Furthermore, lentivirus-mediated RNA interfering (RNAi) targeting VEGF-A and/or VEGF-C was employed to silence their expressions in SGC7901 GC cell line. Cell proliferation and apoptosis were measured in vitro. Suppressive effect lentivirus-mediated VEGF-A and/or VEGF-C silencing on GC growth was evaluated in GC bearing mice. Results: The patients with high expression of both VEGF-A and VEGF-C (A+C+) had larger tumor size, higher peritumoral lymphatic vessel density(P-LVD), microvessel density(MVD), lymphatic vessel invasion (LVI), lymph node(LN) metastasis, and worse prognosis than those with low expression of both VEGF-A and VEGF-C (P<0.05). Lentivirus-mediated RNAi significantly reduced the mRNA and protein expression of VEGF-A and VEGF-C in the SGC7901 cells. The Lenti-miRNA-VEGF-A+VEGF-C significantly inhibited the cell proliferation and tumor growth, compared with Lenti-miRNA-VEGF-A or Lenti-miRNA-VEGF-C (P<0.05). In addition, Lenti-miRNA- VEGF-A+VEGF-C markedly lowered the tumor size in vivo in comparison with Lenti-miRNA-VEGF-A or Lenti-miRNA–VEGF-C (P<0.05). Conclusion: Expressions of both VEGF-A and VEGF-C predict worse prognosis of GC patients. Combined silencing of VEGF-A and VEGF-C markedly suppresses cancer growth than silencing of VEGF-A or VEGF-C. Thus, to inhibit the expressions of VEGF-A and VEGF-C may become a novel strategy for the treatment of GC.
PMCID: PMC3606848  PMID: 23573305
Vascular endothelial growth factor-A; vascular endothelial growth factor-C; tumor growth; prognosis; gastric cancer
17.  Pharmacologically active microcarriers influence VEGF-A effects on mesenchymal stem cell survival 
Resistance of transplanted mesenchymal stem cells (MSCs) in post-ischemic heart is limited by their poor vitality. Vascular-endothelial-growth-factor-A (VEGF-A) as such or slowly released by fibronectin-coated pharmacologically-active-microcarriers (FN-PAM-VEGF) could differently affect survival kinases and anti-apoptotic mediator (e.g. Bcl-2). Therefore VEGF-A or FN-PAM-VEGF could differently enhance cell proliferation, and/or resistance to hypoxia/reoxygenation (H/R) of MSCs. To test these hypotheses MSCs were incubated for 6-days with VEGF-A alone or with FN-PAM-VEGF. In addition, MSCs pre-treated for 24-hrs with VEGF-A or FN-PAM-VEGF were subsequently exposed to H/R (72-hrs 3% O2 and 3-hrs of reoxygenation). Cell-proliferation and post-hypoxic vitality were determined. Kinases were studied at 30-min., 1- and 3-days of treatment. Cell-proliferation increased about twofold (P < 0.01) 6-days after VEGF-A treatment, but by a lesser extent (55% increase) with FN-PAM-VEGF (P < 0.05). While MSC pre-treatment with VEGF-A confirmed cell-proliferation, pre-treatment with FN-PAM-VEGF protected MSCs against H/R. In the early phase of treatments, VEGF-A increased phospho-Akt, phospho-ERK-1/2 and phospho-PKCε compared to the untreated cells or FN-PAM-VEGF. Afterword, kinase phosphorylations were higher with VGEF, except for ERK-1/2, which was similarly increased by both treatments at 3 days. Only FN-PAM-VEGF significantly increased Bcl-2 levels. After H/R, lactate dehydrogenase release and cleaved Caspase-3 levels were mainly reduced by FN-PAM-VEGF. While VEGF-A enhances MSC proliferation in normoxia, FN-PAM-VEGF mainly hampers post-hypoxic MSC death. These different effects underscore the necessity of approaches suited to the various conditions. The use of FN-PAM-VEGF could be considered as a novel approach for enhancing MSC survival and regeneration in hostile environment of post-ischemic tissues.
PMCID: PMC3823149  PMID: 23305078
microspheres; drug release; growth factor; hypoxia; transplantation; stem cells
18.  Tumor surrogate blood vessel subtypes exhibit differential susceptibility to anti-VEGF therapy 
Cancer research  2011;71(22):7021-7028.
Anti-vascular therapy directed against VEGF or its receptors has been successful when administered at early stages of tumor vessel growth, but is less effective when administered later. Tumor blood vessels are heterogeneous, so vessel subpopulations may differ in their requirements for tumor cell-secreted VEGF and in their susceptibility to anti-VEGF/VEGFR therapy. Human cancers contain several distinct blood vessel types, including mother vessels (MV), glomeruloid microvascular proliferations (GMP), vascular malformations (VM), feeding arteries (FA) and draining veins (DV), all of which can be generated in mice in the absence of tumor cells using expression vectors for VEGF-A164. In this study, we investigated the sensitivity of each of these vessel types to anti-VEGF therapy with aflibercept ® (VEGF Trap), a potent inhibitor of VEGF-A164. Administering VEGF Trap treatment before or shortly after injection of a recombinant VEGF-A164 expressing adenovirus could prevent or regress tumor-free neovasculature, but it was progressively less effective if initiated at later times. Early-forming MVs and GMPs in which the lining endothelial cells expressed high levels of VEGFR-2 were highly susceptible to blockade by VEGF Trap. In contrast, late-forming VMs, FAs, and DVs that expressed low levels of VEGFR-2 were largely resistant. Together, our findings define the susceptibility of different blood vessel subtypes to anti-VEGF therapy, offering a possible explanation for the limited effectiveness of anti-VEGF-A/VEGFR treatment of human cancers, which are typically present for months to years before discovery and are largely populated by late-forming blood vessels.
PMCID: PMC3217088  PMID: 21937680
Angiogenesis; Arterio-venogenesis; Ad-VEGF-A164; VEGF; Aflibercept (VEGF Trap)
19.  Combined Transfer of Human VEGF165 and HGF Genes Renders Potent Angiogenic Effect in Ischemic Skeletal Muscle 
PLoS ONE  2012;7(6):e38776.
Increased interest in development of combined gene therapy emerges from results of recent clinical trials that indicate good safety yet unexpected low efficacy of “single-gene” administration. Multiple studies showed that vascular endothelial growth factor 165 aminoacid form (VEGF165) and hepatocyte growth factor (HGF) can be used for induction of angiogenesis in ischemic myocardium and skeletal muscle. Gene transfer system composed of a novel cytomegalovirus-based (CMV) plasmid vector and codon-optimized human VEGF165 and HGF genes combined with intramuscular low-voltage electroporation was developed and tested in vitro and in vivo. Studies in HEK293T cell culture, murine skeletal muscle explants and ELISA of tissue homogenates showed efficacy of constructed plasmids. Functional activity of angiogenic proteins secreted by HEK293T after transfection by induction of tube formation in human umbilical vein endothelial cell (HUVEC) culture. HUVEC cells were used for in vitro experiments to assay the putative signaling pathways to be responsible for combined administration effect one of which could be the ERK1/2 pathway. In vivo tests of VEGF165 and HGF genes co-transfer were conceived in mouse model of hind limb ischemia. Intramuscular administration of plasmid encoding either VEGF165 or HGF gene resulted in increased perfusion compared to empty vector administration. Mice injected with a mixture of two plasmids (VEGF165+HGF) showed significant increase in perfusion compared to single plasmid injection. These findings were supported by increased CD31+ capillary and SMA+ vessel density in animals that received combined VEGF165 and HGF gene therapy compared to single gene therapy. Results of the study suggest that co-transfer of VEGF and HGF genes renders a robust angiogenic effect in ischemic skeletal muscle and may present interest as a potential therapeutic combination for treatment of ischemic disorders.
PMCID: PMC3374822  PMID: 22719942
20.  Angiopoietin-1/Tie-2 activation contributes to vascular survival and tumor growth during VEGF blockade 
Approval of the anti-vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) antibody bevacizumab by the FDA in 2004 reflected the success of this vascular targeting strategy in extending survival in patients with advanced cancers. However, consistent with previous reports that experimental tumors can grow or recur during VEGF blockade, it has become clear that many patients treated with VEGF inhibitors will ultimately develop progressive disease. Previous studies have shown that disruption of VEGF signaling in tumors induces remodeling in surviving vessels, and link increased expression of angiopoietin-1 (Ang-1) with this process. However, overexpression of Ang-1 in different tumors has yielded divergent results, restricting angiogenesis in some systems while promoting it in others. These data raise the possibility that effects of Ang-1/Tie-2 may be context-dependent. Expression of an Ang-1 construct (Ang1*) did not significantly change tumor growth in our model prior to treatment, although vessels exhibited changes consistent with increased Tie-2 signaling. During inhibition of VEGF, however, both overexpression of Ang1* and administration of an engineered Ang-1 agonist (Bow-Ang1) strikingly protected tumors and vasculature from regression. In this context, Ang-1/Tie-2 activation limited tumor hypoxia, increased vessel caliber, and promoted recruitment of mural cells. Thus, these studies support a model in which activation of Tie-2 is important for tumor and vessel survival when VEGF-dependent vasculature is stressed. Understanding such mechanisms of adaptation to this validated form of therapy may be important in designing regimens that make the best use of this approach.
PMCID: PMC3160826  PMID: 19082480
angiogenesis; tumor growth; angiopoietin-1; Tie-2; VEGF; vascular remodeling
21.  Neoadjuvant multidrug chemotherapy including High-Dose Methotrexate modifies VEGF expression in Osteosarcoma: an immunohistochemical analysis 
Angiogenesis plays a role in the progression of osteosarcoma, as well as in other mesenchymal tumors and carcinomas, and it is most commonly assessed by vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression or tumor CD31-positive microvessel density (MVD). Tumor VEGF expression is predictive of poor prognosis, and chemotherapy can affect the selection of angiogenic pattern. The aim of the study was to investigate the clinical and prognostic significance of VEGF and CD31 in osteosarcoma, both at diagnosis and after neoadjuvant chemotherapy, in order to identify a potential role of chemotherapy in angiogenic phenotype.
A retrospective analysis was performed on 16 patients with high grade osteosarcoma. In each case archival pre-treatment biopsy tissue and post-chemotherapy tumor specimens were immunohistochemically stained against CD31 and VEGF, as markers of angiogenic proliferation both in newly diagnosed primary osteosarcoma and after multidrug chemotherapy including high-dose methotrexate (HDMTX). The correlation between clinicopathological parameters and the degree of tumor VEGF and CD31 expression was statistically assessed using the χ2 test verified with Yates' test for comparison of two groups. Significance was set at p < 0,05.
Expression of VEGF was positive in 11 cases/16 of cases at diagnosis. Moreover, 8 cases/16 untreated osteosarcomas were CD31-negative, but the other 8 showed an high expression of CD31. VEGF expression in viable tumor cells after neoadjuvant chemotherapy was observed in all cases; in particular, there was an increased VEGF expression (post-chemotherapy VEGF - biopsy VEGF) in 11 cases/16. CD31 expression increased in 11 cases/16 and decreased in 3 cases after chemotherapy. The data relating to the change in staining following chemotherapy appear statistically significant for VEGF expression (p < 0,05), but not for CD31 (p > 0,05).
Even if the study included few patients, these results confirm that VEGF and CD31 expression is affected by multidrug chemotherapy including HDMTX. The expression of angiogenic factors that increase microvessel density (MVD) can contribute to the penetration of chemotherapeutic drugs into the tumor in the adjuvant stage of treatment. So VEGF could have a paradoxical effect: it is associated with a poor outcome but it could be a potential target for anti-angiogenic therapy.
PMCID: PMC2835659  PMID: 20158913
22.  Relationship Between Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor and Nuclear Factor-κB in Renal Cell Tumors 
Croatian Medical Journal  2008;49(5):608-617.
To assess the relationship between protein and messenger RNA (mRNA) levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and subcellular localization of nuclear factor-kappa B (NF-κB), proliferation rate of tumor cells, and clinicopathological characteristics of renal cell tumors.
We analyzed 31 one renal cell tumors – 22 clear cell renal cell carcinomas (CCRCC) and 9 other histologic types (non-CCRCC). VEGF expression and subcellular localization of p65 member of NF-κB and Ki67 were immunohistochemically evaluated for the proliferation rate of tumor cells. Expression of VEGF mRNA was assessed using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction after total RNA extraction from snap-frozen tumor tissue samples.
Cytoplasmic localization of VEGF protein in renal cell tumors showed a perimembranous and diffuse pattern, the former being more evident in CCRCC (27.1 ± 18.9 vs 3.3 ± 10 % tumors, P = 0.001) and the latter in non-CCRCC type (71.7 ± 23.2 vs 31.1 ± 22.1 % tumors, P < 0.001). Heterogeneity in VEGF gene expression was more pronounced in CCRCC type than in non-CCRCC type (P = 0.004). In addition, perimembranous VEGF pattern was associated with higher VEGF mRNA levels (P = 0.006) and diffuse VEGF pattern with lower VEGF mRNA levels (P < 0.001). Nuclear and cytoplasmic staining of NF-κB/p65 was observed in the majority of tumor cells. A significant association was recorded between cytoplasmic NK-κB/65 staining and VEGF staining of diffuse pattern (P = 0.026). Association between NF-κB/65 and proliferation rate of tumor cells was significant for cytoplasmic staining (P = 0.039) but not for nuclear NFkB/p65 staining (P = 0.099).
Higher but inhomogeneous expression of VEGF in tumor cells, especially in CCRCCs, is associated with NF-κB/65 activity. This indicates that both VEGF and NF-κB/65 may be important in renal carcinogenesis, representing a possible molecular target in the treatment of renal cell carcinoma.
PMCID: PMC2582353  PMID: 18925694
23.  Ranibizumab efficiently blocks migration but not proliferation induced by growth factor combinations including VEGF in retinal endothelial cells 
Proliferation and migration of retinal endothelial cells (REC) are associated with the development of proliferative diabetic retinopathy. REC proliferation is stimulated by isoforms of vascular endothelial growth factor-A (i.e., VEGF121 and VEGF165), basic fibroblast growth factor (bFGF), and insulin-like growth factor (IGF-1) of which VEGF165 also enhances migration of REC. Effects induced by VEGF-A can be blocked with ranibizumab, a VEGF-binding Fab fragment used in therapy of diabetic macular edema. In this study, we investigated potential angiogenic effects of placental growth factors (PlGF-1, PlGF-2) as other members of the VEGF family and whether the primary action of VEGF165 is modulated in the presence of bFGF, IGF-1 and PlGF-1/-2. We also studied how effects of growth factor combinations can be attenuated with ranibizumab.
Effects of single growth factors or their combinations on proliferation and migration of immortalized bovine retinal endothelial cells (iBREC) were studied with or without ranibizumab or the inhibitor of VEGF receptors KRN951.
Proliferation of iBREC was significantly stimulated by 1–100 ng/ml PlGF-1 or PlGF-2, but additive effects were not observed with various combinations of the tested growth factors. Ranibizumab neutralized VEGF’s effect on proliferation but was not effective when the other growth factors were used in combination with VEGF. bFGF and IGF-1 but not PlGF-1 or PlGF-2 stimulated iBREC migration as single agents, and they further enhanced VEGF-induced migration. The effects of such growth factor combinations including VEGF on migration were efficiently blocked by targeting only VEGF with ranibizumab. Migration induced by VEGF plus bFGF and IGF-1 was also almost completely inhibited by KRN951 interfering with VEGF receptor signalling.
Migration but not proliferation of iBREC induced by combinations of bFGF, IGF-1, PlGF-1 or PlGF-2 together with VEGF is efficiently suppressed by ranibizumab. VEGF-mediated signalling through VEGFR2 seems to control REC migration dominantly in the presence of other growth factors.
PMCID: PMC3777160  PMID: 23760670
Retinal endothelial cells; Growth factors; Ranibizumab; Migration; Proliferation; Proliferative diabetic retinopathy
24.  VEGF121b and VEGF165b are weakly angiogenic isoforms of VEGF-A 
Molecular Cancer  2010;9:320.
Different isoforms of VEGF-A (mainly VEGF121, VEGF165 and VEGF189) have been shown to display particular angiogenic properties in the generation of a functional tumor vasculature. Recently, a novel class of VEGF-A isoforms, designated as VEGFxxxb, generated through alternative splicing, have been described. Previous studies have suggested that these isoforms may inhibit angiogenesis. In the present work we have produced recombinant VEGF121/165b proteins in the yeast Pichia pastoris and constructed vectors to overexpress these isoforms and assess their angiogenic potential.
Recombinant VEGF121/165b proteins generated either in yeasts or mammalian cells activated VEGFR2 and its downstream effector ERK1/2, although to a lesser extent than VEGF165. Furthermore, treatment of endothelial cells with VEGF121/165b increased cell proliferation compared to untreated cells, although such stimulation was lower than that induced by VEGF165. Moreover, in vivo angiogenesis assays confirmed angiogenesis stimulation by VEGF121/165b isoforms. A549 and PC-3 cells overexpressing VEGF121b or VEGF165b (or carrying the PCDNA3.1 empty vector, as control) and xenotransplanted into nude mice showed increased tumor volume and angiogenesis compared to controls. To assess whether the VEGFxxxb isoforms are differentially expressed in tumors compared to healthy tissues, immunohistochemical analysis was conducted on a breast cancer tissue microarray. A significant increase (p < 0.05) in both VEGFxxxb and total VEGF-A protein expression in infiltrating ductal carcinomas compared to normal breasts was observed. A positive significant correlation (r = 0.404, p = 0.033) between VEGFxxxb and total VEGF-A was found.
Our results demonstrate that VEGF121/165b are not anti-angiogenic, but weakly angiogenic isoforms of VEGF-A. In addition, VEGFxxxb isoforms are up-regulated in breast cancer in comparison with non malignant breast tissues. These results are to be taken into account when considering a possible use of VEGF121/165b-based therapies in patients.
PMCID: PMC3022671  PMID: 21194429
25.  Dll4 Blockade Potentiates the Anti-Tumor Effects of VEGF Inhibition in Renal Cell Carcinoma Patient-Derived Xenografts 
PLoS ONE  2014;9(11):e112371.
The Notch ligand Delta-like 4 (Dll4) is highly expressed in vascular endothelium and has been shown to play a pivotal role in regulating tumor angiogenesis. Blockade of the Dll4-Notch pathway in preclinical cancer models has been associated with non-productive angiogenesis and reduced tumor growth. Given the cross-talk between the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and Delta-Notch pathways in tumor angiogenesis, we examined the activity of a function-blocking Dll4 antibody, REGN1035, alone and in combination with anti-VEGF therapy in renal cell carcinoma (RCC).
Methods and Results
Severe combined immunodeficiency (SCID) mice bearing patient-derived clear cell RCC xenografts were treated with REGN1035 and in combination with the multi-targeted tyrosine kinase inhibitor sunitinib or the VEGF blocker ziv-aflibercept. Immunohistochemical and immunofluorescent analyses were carried out, as well as magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) examinations pre and 24 hours and 2 weeks post treatment. Single agent treatment with REGN1035 resulted in significant tumor growth inhibition (36–62%) that was equivalent to or exceeded the single agent anti-tumor activity of the VEGF pathway inhibitors sunitinib (38–54%) and ziv-aflibercept (46%). Importantly, combination treatments with REGN1035 plus VEGF inhibitors resulted in enhanced anti-tumor effects (72–80% growth inhibition), including some tumor regression. Magnetic resonance imaging showed a marked decrease in tumor perfusion in all treatment groups. Interestingly, anti-tumor efficacy of the combination of REGN1035 and ziv-aflibercept was also observed in a sunitinib resistant ccRCC model.
Overall, these findings demonstrate the potent anti-tumor activity of Dll4 blockade in RCC patient-derived tumors and a combination benefit for the simultaneous targeting of the Dll4 and VEGF signaling pathways, highlighting the therapeutic potential of this treatment modality in RCC.
PMCID: PMC4231048  PMID: 25393540

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