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Expression of type IV collagenase correlates with the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in primary non-small cell lung cancer


Tumor growth and metastasis are angiogenesis-dependent processes initiated and regulated by a number of cytokines. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a potent angiogenic protein with a selective mitogenic effect on vascular endothelial cells, known to be involved in physiological (embryogenesis) and pathophysiological (rheumatoid arthritis, tumor) angiogenesis. An increased expression of matrix metalloproteinase type IV collagenase has been reported in invading endothelial cells in vitro and in malignant cells, degrading structures of the basement membranes in various human malignancies. In the present study we investigated the expression of the genes for type IV collagenase and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in 40 cases of primary non-small-cell lung cancer (NSCLC). Specimens were immunostained by an antibody directed against VEGF and mRNA transcripts of VEGF and type IV collagenase were localized by non-radioactive in situ hybridization. VEGF mRNA was detected in 33 neoplasms, while in 23 cases transcripts of the type IV collagenase gene were visualized by digoxigenin-labeled cDNA probes. Transcripts of both mRNAs were detected in malignant cells. Furthermore, anti-VEGF immunostaining was present in newly formed microvessels close to the atypical cells, and mRNA of type IV collagenase was present in stromal cells adjacent to the tumor. A statistically significant correlation was found between the expression of type IV collagenase and VEGF (P=0.0061). These data suggest a double role for type IV collagenase in the metastatic process of NSCLC: (1) facilitating the invasion of tumor cells by the proteolytic cleavage of the basement membrane and (2) similarly supporting the endothelial cell invasion essential for tumor angiogenesis. Furthermore, our findings sustain the hypothesis that metastatic spread and angiogenesis are associated with a clonal expansion of highly angiogenic and invasive tumor cell clones.

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Received: 18 February 1997 / Accepted: 12 August 1997

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Tolnay, E., Wiethege, T., Kuhnen, C. et al. Expression of type IV collagenase correlates with the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor in primary non-small cell lung cancer. J Cancer Res Clin Oncol 123, 652–658 (1997).

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  • Key words Type IV collagenase
  • Vascular endothelial growth factor
  • Angiogenesis
  • non-small cell lung cancer