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VEGF in 105 pheochromocytomas: enhanced expression correlates with malignant outcome

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Salmenkivi K, Heikkilä P, Liu J, Haglund C, Arola J. VEGF in 105 pheochromocytomas: enhanced expression correlates with malignant outcome. APMIS 2003;111:458–64.

Pheochromocytomas are rare sympathoadrenal tumors that are highly vascular. Their malignancy is extremely difficult to estimate on the basis of histopathological features. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is one of the most important angiogenic factors involved in both tumor growth and metastasis. In our search for new prognostic markers, we investigated the expression of VEGF in normal adrenal gland, in 105 primary pheochromocytomas, and in 6 metastases by using immunohistochemistry and Northern blot analysis. We also calculated the microvessel density of these tumors by staining the endothelial cells with monoclonal CD34 antibody.

VEGF messenger ribonucleic acid was found in all pheochromocytomas studied. Immunohistochemically, VEGF was not found in normal adrenal medullary cells. Interestingly, all malignant pheochromocytomas (n=8), regardless of their primary location, had strong or moderate VEGF immunoreactivity, while most benign adrenal pheochromocytomas (26 of 37, 70.3%) were either negative or only weakly positive. The staining was heterogenous in extraadrenal pheochromocytomas as well as in a group of tumors that had histologically suspicious features but had not metastasized, here called borderline tumors (n=29). The microvessel density varied greatly in all of the tumor groups, and no statistical difference was found between these groups.

Here we report moderate to strong VEGF expression in malignant pheochromocytomas, and negative or weak expression in benign adrenal pheochromocytomas. Normal medullary cells are immunohistochemically negative. Thus, low VEGF expression in pheochromocytomas favors a benign diagnosis.
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Keywords: Adrenal gland; VEGF; microvessel density; pheochromocytoma

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 1: Department of Pathology, Haartman Institute, University of Helsinki and HUCH Laboratory Diagnostics, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki; 2: Department of Surgery, Helsinki University Central Hospital, Helsinki, Finland

Publication date: 01 April 2003

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