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PURPOSE: Angiogenesis is essential for tumor growth and metastasis. It is a complex, dynamic process that is coordinated by several classes of angiogenic factors. One candidate family is the Tie2 tyrosine kinase, whose expression is restricted largely to endothelial cells. Tie2 has three known ligands, angiopoietin (Ang)-1, Ang-2, and Ang-4, that have different functional effects but play a requisite role in embryonic vessel remodeling. Because there are only limited data on the Tie2 pathway in human breast cancer, and our previous data have suggested that breast tumors establish a blood supply by vascular remodeling, we have investigated the expression of Ang-1, Ang-2, Ang-4, and Tie2 in a series of normal and neoplastic human breast tissues. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: We examined mRNA expression by reverse transcription-PCR in 6 normal and 52 malignant breast tissues and correlated expression with clinicopathological and angiogenic variables. We also examined the effect of physiological levels of estrogen on Ang expression. RESULTS: Ang-1, Ang-2, Ang-4, and Tie2 were detected in 19%, 52%, 35%, and 65%, respectively, of tumor samples. There was a significant reduction in expression of tumor Ang-1 (P = 0.04), Ang-2 (P = 0.01), Ang-4 (P = 0.004), and Tie2 (P = 0.02) compared with that in normal breast tissues. There was a significant relationship in tumors between all Angs and between each ligand and Tie2. In a multivariate analysis, there were significant positive correlations between Ang-4 and estrogen receptor (P = 0.016) and a significant inverse correlation between Ang-1 and thymidine phosphorylase expression (P = 0.01). No significant associations were observed between the other members of the Ang/Tie2 gene family and patient age, tumor size, lymph node status, tumor grade, vascular invasion, tumor vascularity, vascular maturation, thymidine phosphorylase, or vascular endothelial growth factor A expression (P > 0.05 for all). The potential regulation of Ang-4 by estrogen was further investigated in vitro. Addition of physiological concentrations of 17beta-estradiol (1 nM) to hormone-free media caused no significant change in Ang-4 mRNA abundance (P = 0.75) in the estrogen receptor-positive cell line MCF-7 after either 2 or 18 h, despite demonstrating induction for the estrogen response gene pS2. CONCLUSIONS: These findings suggest that the Ang/Tie2 pathway plays a significant role in human breast tumor angiogenesis but provide no initial evidence for direct regulation of the pathway by estrogen.


Journal article


Clin Cancer Res

Publication Date





918 - 927


Angiopoietin-1, Angiopoietin-2, Angiopoietins, Breast Neoplasms, Estrogens, Female, Gene Expression, Growth Substances, Humans, Immunohistochemistry, Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins, Membrane Glycoproteins, Neoplasm Proteins, Neovascularization, Pathologic, Proteins, Proto-Oncogene Proteins, RNA, Messenger, Receptor, TIE-2, Thymidine Phosphorylase, Tumor Cells, Cultured