Tumor-specific VEGF-A and VEGFR2 in postmenopausal breast cancer patients with long-term follow-up. Implication of a link between VEGF pathway and tamoxifen response

Lisa Rydén, Maria Stendahl, Håkan Jonsson, Stefan Emdin, Nils O Bengtsson, Göran Landberg
Breast Cancer Research and Treatment 2005, 89 (2): 135-43
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A) is considered a prognostic indicator for clinical outcome in breast cancer. Conflicting results nevertheless exist and there is a need for larger studies including untreated patients in order to clarify the importance of tumor-specific VEGF-A regarding prognosis as well as potential links to predictive treatment information. VEGF-A and its receptor, vascular endothelial growth receptor 2 (VEGFR2), were therefore analyzed by immunohistochemistry in postmenopausal breast cancers enrolled in a clinical trial where patients were randomized to adjuvant tamoxifen treatment (n = 124) for 2 years or no treatment (n = 127) with a median follow-up of 18 years. The tumors were arranged in a tumor tissue microarray system enabling parallel analysis of the angiogenic factors and hormone receptor status. Tumor-specific expression of VEGFR2 correlated strongly with expression of VEGF-A and progesterone receptor (PR) negativity, whereas VEGF-A was not associated with hormone receptor status. Among patients with estrogen receptor (ER) positive (fraction > 10%) tumors, there was a statistically significant tamoxifen response in VEGF-A negative tumors at both 10-year and 18-year disease-free survival (DFS), contrasting to VEGF-A positive tumors who had no beneficial effect of tamoxifen. A treatment-interaction variable indicated a marked difference in tamoxifen response depending on VEGFA-status in terms of DFS at 10 and 18 years of follow-up, p = 0.046 and p = 0.039, respectively. VEGFR2 status did not yield significant predicitve information for tamoxifen response in patients with ER fraction > 10%, whereas in patients with ER fraction > 90% both VEGF-A and VEGFR2 status were associated with tamoxifen treatment effect.

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