Differential assessment of angiogenic activity and of vascular survival ability (VSA) in breast cancer.
Giatromanolaki A., Sivridis E., Simopoulos C., Polychronidis A., Gatter KC., Harris AL., Koukourakis MI.
Recent reports provide evidence that some growth factors behave as inhibitors of the apoptosis of the endothelial cells, bringing forward the concept of vascular survival as a post-angiogenesis process. At least two different vasculature development processes occur within a tumor: the angiogenic (formation of new vessels) and the vascular survival pathway, which is devoted to the preservation of the newly-formed vessels in layers that lose contact with the adjacent normal tissue. We developed a method to assess these processes in tissue samples. We noted that differences among tumors may exist not only in the tumor angiogenic activity (TAA) but also in the vascular survival ability (VSA). One third of the highly angiogenic breast cancer cases examined had a poor ability to maintain high vessel density in inner tumor areas. Both parameters are independently related to prognosis, while VSA was directly related to tumor dimensions and node involvement. Patients with high TAA and VSA had a particularly poor prognosis. It is suggested that although cancer angiogenic activity is important for the local invasion and dissemination into vessels and lymphatics, the VSA may be important for the effective formation of viable tumor foci in lymph nodes or distant organs. Recognition and quantification of the vascular survival ability in human tumors may significantly improve the prognostic value of the assessment of tumor vasculature, and may help to stratify patients for clinical trials with novel anti-angiogenic or angiotoxic drugs. Elucidation of the pathways may provide additional targets for antiangiogenic therapy.