Abstract: Background: Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a hypervascular tumor and angiogenesis plays an important role in its progression. Angiogenesis is regulated by a balance between pro and antiangiogenic molecules. The aim of this study was to investigate the expressions of angiogenic factors and elucidate their roles in angiogenesis in HCC.
Methods: We investigated immunohistochemical expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), angiopoietins (Ang-1 and Ang-2), hypoxia-induced factor-1α (HIF-1α) and thrombospondin-1 (TSP-1) in 60 specimens of surgically resected HCC. We investigated the relationship between their expressions and clinicopathological factors or prognosis.
Results: Ang-2 staining had a significant correlation with the grade of differentiation of HCC cells (P=0.0082). VEGF and Ang-2 expression correlated positively with microvessel density (MVD) (P=0.0061 and 0.0374, respectively). MVD of well-differentiated HCC were significantly lower than those of moderately and poorly differentiated HCC. The disease-free survival time of patients with high Ang-2 and/or HIF-1α expression was significantly shorter than that of the low expression group (P=0.0278 and 0.0374, respectively).
Conclusion: Our study showed that the expression of VEGF and Ang-2 correlated with MVD. Strong Ang-2 expression and/or high nuclear expression of HIF-1α is a significant predictive factor for recurrence after curative resection in HCC patients.