Different significance between intratumoral and peritumoral lymphatic vessel density in gastric cancer: a retrospective study of 123 cases

Xiao-Lei Wang, Jian-Ping Fang, Ru-Yong Tang, Xi-Mei Chen
BMC Cancer 2010, 10: 299

BACKGROUND: Patients with gastric cancer in China have worse outcome and poorer prognosis. Tumor-induced lymphangiogenesis plays a crucial role in metastasis and tumor progression. The intratumoral and peritumoral lymphatics were supposed to have different biological effects. Three major growth factors, vascular endothelial growth factor- (VEGF)-A, VEGF-C and VEGF-D, are involved in the activation process via their receptors (VEGFRs). The purpose of current study is to investigate the significant difference between intratumoral and peritumoral lymphatic vessel density (LVD) in gastric cancer and their correlations with lymphangiogenetic growth factors.

METHODS: Intratumoral LVD (I-LVD) and peritumoral LVD (P-LVD) of 123 patients with primary gastric cancer were assessed after staining with D2-40, and confirmed by double staining with D2-40/CD34. Proliferative activity of lymphatics endothelium was evaluated by double staining with D2-40/Ki-67. The associations were analyzed between I-LVD/P-LVD and the expression level of VEGF-A, VEGF-C, VEGF-D and the receptor VEGFR-3, which was measured by immunohistochemistry (IHC). The correlations of I-LVD and P-LVD with patient prognosis were also valued.

RESULTS: (1) The peritumoral lymphatics (PTLs) were relatively enlarged with dilated lumen compared with the intratumoral lymphatics (ITLs). Increased P-LVD was significantly higher than I-LVD (P < 0.05). (2) P-LVD was found significantly associated with lymph node metastasis (LNM) (P < 0.001), lymphatic vessel invasion (LVI) (P < 0.001), VEGF-C (P = 0.003), VEGF-D expression level (P = 0.005) and VEGFR-3 expression level (P < 0.001) in peritumoral tissues, despite no significant association was found between above variants with I-LVD. However, increased I-LVD was demonstrated to be associated with decreased tumor volume (P < 0.001). Neither I-LVD nor P-LVD was correlated with VEGF-A expression (P > 0.05). (3) Proliferative activity of lymphatics endothelium was observed in PTLs, in spite of ITLs. (4) Increased P-LVD, but not I-LVD, was indicated to be an independent risk factor for lymph node metastasis by multivariate logistic regression analysis, and was related to worse disease-free survival and overall survival.

CONCLUSIONS: PTLs play roles in gastric cancer progression. Increased P-LVD, but not I-LVD, was significantly associated with VEGF-C/-D/VEGFR-3 system, and could be an independent risk factor for lymph node metastasis and a prognostic factor in gastric cancer.

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