Tumour angiogenesis, as assayed by microvessel density (MVD), and the expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and platelet-derived endothelial cell growth factor (PD-ECGF) have become established as important prognostic indicators for many tumour types. In this study, MVD and the expression of VEGF and PD-ECGF were examined by immunohistochemical staining of 50 pancreatic cancer tissues, and the relationships between either MVD or the expression of these two angiogenic factors and the clinicopathological features, including survival, were analysed. The expression of VEGF and PD- ECGF proteins were confirmed by Western blot analysis and VEGF mRNA isoforms were determined by reverse transcriptase-polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR) in five pancreatic cancer cell lines. Twenty-eight (56%) of 50 pancreatic cancers were positive for VEGF protein in cancer cells, and 16 (32%) showed strong PD-ECGF staining in cancer and infiltrating cells. VEGF121 and VEGF165 were identified as the predominant species produced in pancreatic cancer cells. The overexpression of VEGF and PD-ECGF protein significantly correlated with high MVD (P = 0.002, 0.044, respectively). Advanced stage of disease was significantly more frequent in patients with high MVD (P = 0.025). No significant association was found between the expression of VEGF or PD-ECGF and clinicopathological features, except for tumour histology. The expression of PD-ECGF correlated with poor survival (P = 0.011), but MVD and VEGF expression were not found to be useful for the prediction of overall survival. This study suggests that VEGF and PD-ECGF may play an important role in tumour angiogenesis, and that PD-ECGF expression seems to be useful for establishing prognoses for pancreatic cancer.
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