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Angiogenesis, the formation of new vessels, has been demonstrated to be an indicator of prognosis in breast cancer patients. The extent of differentiation of the tumour vessels may affect access of peripheral white cells and egress or invasion of tumour cells. This has not been assessed in relation to tumour microvessel density or other variables and may be a marker of vascular remodelling. LH39 is a monoclonal antibody recognizing an epitope located at the lamina lucida of mature small veins and capillaries but not in newly formed vessels. To study vascular differentiation in breast tumours, we examined the vascular maturation index (VMI) in 12 normal and 50 breast carcinomas and this was correlated with different clinicopathological variables including angiogenesis. Mature vessels were defined by staining with antibodies to both LH39 and to CD31, using double immunohistochemistry, whereas immature vessels stained only for CD31. VMI was defined as the % fraction of mature vessels (LH39-positive) / total number of vessels (CD31-positive). The VMI was significantly higher in normal (54-68.5%; median 66.5%) than in tumours (0-47%; median 8.8%) (P = 0.0005). There was a significant inverse correlation between the tumour VMI and nodal status (Fisher's exact test, P = 0.01) and between high VMI and low thymidine phosphorylase (TP) expression (Mann-Whitney U-test, P= 0.01). No significant association between VMI and tumour size, oestrogen receptor, epidermal growth factor receptor, grade, angiogenesis, patient age, or E-selectin was seen. There was a significant reduction in relapse-free survival (P = 0.01) with high angiogenesis. These findings show that the VMI gives new information on the mechanism of tumour angiogenesis independently from microvessel quantitation, there is a wide variation in the differentiation of tumour vasculature but the degree of capillary differentiation is not associated with quantitative angiogenesis. The VMI identifies a subset of patients who have a high chance of regional node involvement.

Original publication




Journal article


Br J Cancer

Publication Date





844 - 851


Adult, Aged, Breast Neoplasms, Female, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Middle Aged, Neoplasm Metastasis, Neoplasm Proteins