Angiogenesis inhibition by vascular endothelial growth factor receptor-2 blockade reduces stromal matrix metalloproteinase expression, normalizes stromal tissue, and reverts epithelial tumor phenotype in surface heterotransplants

Silvia Vosseler, Nicolae Mirancea, Peter Bohlen, Margareta M Mueller, Norbert E Fusenig
Cancer Research 2005 February 15, 65 (4): 1294-305
Inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) signaling, a key regulator of tumor angiogenesis, through blockade of VEGF receptor (VEGFR)-2 by the monoclonal antibody DC101 inhibits angiogenesis, tumor growth, and invasion. In a surface xenotransplant assay on nude mice using a high-grade malignant squamous cell carcinoma cell line (A-5RT3), we show that DC101 causes vessel regression and normalization as well as stromal maturation resulting in a reversion to a noninvasive tumor phenotype. Vessel regression is followed by down-regulation of expression of both VEGFR-2 and VEGFR-1 on endothelial cells and increased association of alpha-smooth muscle actin-positive cells with small vessels indicating their normalization, which was further supported by a regular ultrastructure. The phenotypic regression of an invasive carcinoma to a well-demarcated dysplastic squamous epithelium is accentuated by the establishment of a clearly structured epithelial basement membrane and the accumulation of collagen bundles in the stabilized connective tissue. This normalization of the tumor-stroma border coincided with down-regulated expression of the stromal matrix metalloproteinases 9 and 13, which supposedly resulted in attenuated turnover of extracellular matrix components permitting their structural organization. Thus, in this mouse model of a human squamous cell carcinoma cell line, blockade of VEGF signaling resulted in the reversion of the epithelial tumor phenotype through stromal normalization, further substantiating the crucial role of stromal microenvironment in regulating the tumor phenotype.

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