Anti-VEGF-A therapy reduces lymphatic vessel density and expression of VEGFR-3 in an orthotopic breast tumor model

Brandt Whitehurst, Michael J. Flister, Juhi Bagaitkar, Lisa Volk, Christopher M. Bivens, Brent Pickett, Emely Castro-Rivera, Rolf A. Brekken, Robert D. Gerard, Sophia Ran

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

78 Scopus citations


Because metastasis contributes significantly to cancer mortality, understanding its mechanisms is crucial to developing effective therapy. Metastasis is facilitated by lymphangiogenesis, the growth of new intratumoral or peritumoral lymphatic vessels from pre-existing vessels. Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) is a well-known angiogenic factor. Increasing evidence implicates VEGF-A in lymphangiogenesis, although the mechanism of its pro-lymphangiogenic effect is poorly understood. We examined the effect of the anti-VEGF-A neutralizing antibody 2C3 on tumor lymphangiogenesis and metastasis in an orthotopic breast carcinoma model using MDA-MB-231 cells and its luciferase-tagged derivative, 231-Luc+ cells. Anti-VEGF-A antibody therapy reduced blood and lymphatic vessel densities by 70% and 80%, respectively, compared with the control antibody. Treatment with 2C3 antibody also decreased incidence of lymphatic and pulmonary metastases by 3.2- and 4.5-fold, respectively. Macrophage infiltration was reduced in 2C3-treated tumors by 32%, but VEGF-C expression was unchanged. In contrast, neoplastic cells and blood vessels in tumors from 2C3-treated mice expressed significantly less angiopoietin-2 (Ang-2) than tumors from control mice. The reduction in Ang-2 was associated with inhibition of VEGFR-3 expression in intratumoral lymphatic endothelial cells. Both VEGF-A and Ang-2 upregulated the expression of VEGFR-3 in cultured lymphatic endothelial cells. VEGF-A induced proliferation of lymphatic endothelial cells was reduced by 50% by soluble Tie-2, suggesting that Ang-2 is an intermediary of the pro-lymphangiogenic VEGF-A effect. These results suggest a novel mechanism by which anti-VEGF-A therapy may suppress tumor lymphangiogenesis and subsequent metastasis supporting the use of anti-VEGF-A therapy to control metastasis clinically.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2181-2191
Number of pages11
JournalInternational Journal of Cancer
Issue number10
StatePublished - Nov 15 2007


  • Breast cancer
  • Lymphangiogenesis
  • Metastasis
  • VEGF-A
  • VEGFR-3

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Oncology
  • Cancer Research


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