Vascularization and tumor cell proliferation were analyzed in 33 resected human squamous cell carcinomas of the esophagus using the endothelium-specific antibody BW 200 and the proliferation-associated antibody Ki-67. Vascular parameters (relative capillary volume, relative total vessel volume, vascular surface area, and vascular length) as well as the percentage of proliferating tumor cells (Ki-67 index) were evaluated on frozen sections by a morphometric method. Vascular parameters of the normal mucosa exceeded those of tumors significantly, by a factor of 1.4–2.3. The mean distance between tumor capillaries and the onset of necrosis was 92 ± 34 µm. Global vascular density did not correlate with TNM stage, tumor diameter, or overall tumor proliferation (mean Ki-67 index, 35.1%; range, 14.2–64.1%). However, a significant negative correlation existed between the percentage of proliferating tumor cells per tumor cord and the intercapillary distance between capillaries located at the edges of these cords. This observation points to the fact that the esophageal cancers were composed of multiple tumor cords and that each of these cords possessed its own supply capillaries at the base of the cord. The sum of these “supply units” thus constitutes an esophageal cancer. The intercapillary distance may reflect the oxygenation status of tumor cells, which cannot be predicted on the basis of tumor staging or grading.

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Supported by a grant from the Dr. Mildred Scheel Foundation for Cancer Research.

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