Tumor endothelial transdifferentiation and VEGFR1/2 expression by cancer cells have been reported in glioblastoma but remain poorly documented for many other cancer types.
To characterize vasculature of patient-derived tumor xenografts (PDXs), largely used in preclinical anti-angiogenic assays, we designed here species-specific real-time quantitative RT-PCR assays. Human and mouse PECAM1/CD31, ENG/CD105, FLT1/VEGFR1, KDR/VEGFR2 and VEGFA transcripts were analyzed in a large series of 150 PDXs established from 8 different tumor types (53 colorectal, 14 ovarian, 39 breast and 15 renal cell cancers, 6 small cell and 5 non small cell lung carcinomas, 13 cutaneous melanomas and 5 glioblastomas) and in two bevacizumab-treated non small cell lung carcinomas xenografts.
As expected, mouse cell proportion in PDXs -evaluated by quantifying expression of the housekeeping gene TBP- correlated with all mouse endothelial markers and human VEGFA RNA levels. More interestingly, we observed human PECAM1/CD31 and ENG/CD105 expression in all tumor types, with higher rate in glioblastoma and renal cancer xenografts. Human VEGFR expression profile varied widely depending on tumor types with particularly high levels of human FLT1/VEGFR1 transcripts in colon cancers and non small cell lung carcinomas, and upper levels of human KDR/VEGFR2 transcripts in non small cell lung carcinomas. Bevacizumab treatment induced significant low expression of mouse Pecam1/Cd31, Eng/Cd105, Flt1/Vegfr1 and Kdr/Vefr2 while the human PECAM1/CD31 and VEGFA were upregulated.
Taken together, our results strongly suggest existence of human tumor endothelial cells in all tumor types tested and of both stromal and tumoral autocrine VEGFA-VEGFR1/2 signalings. These findings should be considered when evaluating molecular mechanisms of preclinical response and resistance to tumor anti-angiogenic strategies.