bcl-2 and c-erbB-2 proteins are involved in the regulation of VEGF and of thymidine phosphorylase angiogenic activity in non-small-cell lung cancer.
Koukourakis MI., Giatromanolaki A., O'Byrne KJ., Cox J., Krammer B., Gatter KC., Harris AL.
Tumour angiogenesis has been recently recognised as one of the most important prognostic factors in lung cancer. Although a variety of angiogenic factors have been identified, the angiogenesis process remains poorly understood. Bcl-2, c-erbB-2 and p53 are well-known oncogenes involved in non-small-cell lung cancer pathogenesis. A direct correlation of thymidine phosphorylase (TP) and of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) with intratumoural angiogenesis has been reported. In the present study we investigated the possible regulatory role of bcl-2, c-erB-2 proteins in angiogenesis and in VEGF and TP expression in non-small-cell lung cancer. Two hundred sixteen specimens from T1,2-N0,1 staged patients treated with surgery alone were immunohistochemically examined. Bcl-2 and c-erbB-2 were significantly inversely related to each other (P = 0.04) and both were inversely associated with microvessel density (P < 0.02). High TP and VEGF reactivity was statistically related to loss of bcl-2 expression (P < 0.01). A significant co-expression of c-erbB-2 with TP was noted (P = 0.01). However, TP expression was related to high angiogenesis only in cases with absence of c-erB-2 expression (P < 0.0001). c-erbB-2 expression in poorly vascularised tumours was linked with poor outcome (P = 0.03). The present study provides strong evidence that the bcl-2 gene has a suppressive function over genes involved in both angiogenesis (VEGF and TP) and cell migration (c-erbB-2) in NSCLC. TP and c-erbB-2 proteins are significantly, and often simultaneously, expressed in bcl-2 negative cases. However, expression of the c-erbB-2 abolishes the TP-related angiogenic activity. Whether this is a result of a direct activity of the c-erbB-2 protein or a consequence of a c-erbB-2-related immune response remains to be further investigated.