Published online May 7, 2008. doi: 10.3748/wjg.14.2691
Revised: March 22, 2008
Published online: May 7, 2008
Metastasis is the principal cause of cancer mortality, with the lymphatic system being the first route of tumor dissemination. The glycoproteins VEGF-C and VEGF-D are members of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) family, whose role has been recently recognized as lymphatic system regulators during embryogenesis and in pathological processes such as inflammation, lymphatic system disorders and malignant tumor metastasis. They are ligands for the VEGFR-3 receptor on the membrane of the lymphatic endothelial cell, resulting in dilatation of existing lymphatic vessels as well as in vegetation of new ones (lymphangiogenesis). Their determination is feasible in the circulating blood by immunoabsorption and in the tissue specimen by immunohistochemistry and reverse transcription polymerase chain reaction (RT-PCR). Experimental and clinicopathological studies have linked the VEGF-C, VEGF-D/VEGFR3 axis to lymphatic spread as well as to the clinical outcome in several human solid tumors. The majority of these data are derived from surgical specimens and malignant cell series, rendering their clinical application questionable, due to subjectivity factors and post-treatment quantification. In an effort to overcome these drawbacks, an alternative method of immunodetection of the circulating levels of these molecules has been used in studies on gastric, esophageal and colorectal cancer. Their results denote that quantification of VEGF-C and VEGF-D in blood samples could serve as lymph node metastasis predictive biomarkers and contribute to preoperative staging of gastrointestinal malignancies.