Hepatocellular carcinoma (HCC) is a typical hypervascular tumor. However, the relationship between the vascularity of HCC and the expression of angiogenic factors has not been investigated. In addition, no detailed studies have examined the possible involvement of angiogenic factors in the grade of malignancy of HCC. The aim of this study was to determine which angiogenic factors regulate tumor angiogenesis and contribute to the invasive ability of liver tumors, especially of HCC. Northern blot analysis was used to examine the transcriptional expression of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), basic fibroblast growth factor (FGF), and acidic FGF in resected surgical specimens (20 HCC and 9 metastatic liver tumors). Correlations between messenger RNA (mRNA) expression and arteriographic findings, as well as histopathological findings, were evaluated. Immunohistochemistry was performed to identify the localization of cells expressing VEGF in HCC. Higher levels of VEGF mRNA were observed in 12 of 20 HCC and in 2 of 9 metastatic liver tumors than in corresponding nontumorous tissues. The degree of VEGF mRNA expression was significantly correlated with the intensity of tumor staining in angiograms (P < .01). On immunohistochemical observation, VEGF protein was intensely detected in HCC cells. Furthermore, basic FGF mRNA was detected in 9 of 20 HCC and was related to the capsular infiltration of cancer cells (P < .05). In contrast, no significant difference was observed in the very low levels of acidic FGF mRNA found in the tumorous and nontumorous portions of the liver. In conclusion, these results suggest that VEGF contributes to angiogenesis of liver tumors, whereas basic FGF may be involved in the invasion of HCC into the surrounding tissues.
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