The extent of enhanced bone marrow angiogenesis in chronic lymphocytic leukemia (CLL) and relationship to proangiogenic factors and prognostic indicators is largely unexplored.
To further investigate the role of angiogenesis in CLL by evaluating the topography and extent of angiogenesis in a group of CLL bone marrow biopsies, to study the expression of pro and antiangiogenic vascular factors in CLL cells to more precisely document the cell types producing these factors, and to evaluate the role, if any, of localized hypoxia in upregulation of angiogenesis in CLL We used immunohistochemistry (IHC) (n = 21 pts) with antibodies to CD3 and CD20, proangiogenic (VEGF, HIF-1a) and antiangiogenic (TSP-1) factors, and VEGF receptors -1 and -2 to examine pattern/extent of CLL marrow involvement, microvessel density (MVD), and angiogenic characteristics; flow cytometry (FC) was performed on 21 additional cases for VEGF and TSP-1.
CLL patients had higher MVD (23.8 vs 14.6, p~0.0002) compared to controls (n = 10). MVD was highest at the periphery of focal infiltrates, was not enhanced in proliferation centers, and was increased irrespective of the presence or absence of cytogenetic/immunophenotypic markers of aggressivity. By IHC, CLL cells were VEGF(+), HIF-1a (+), TSP-1(-), VEGFR-1(+), and VEGFR-2(+). By FC, CLL cells were 1.4–2.0-fold brighter for VEGF than T cells and were TSP-1(-).
CLL demonstrates enhanced angiogenesis, with increased MVD, upregulated VEGF and downregulated TSP-1. Upregulation of HIF-1a in all CLL cases suggests localized tissue hypoxia as an important stimulant of microvessel proliferation. The presence of VEGF receptors on CLL cells implies an autocrine effect for VEGF. Differences in MVD did not correlate with traditional genetic/immunophenotypic markers of aggressiveness.