Angiogenesis is a crucial step in tumor growth and progression. Its quantitation by microvessel counting is of prognostic value in several types of malignancies. Scarce data are available on angiogenesis in gastrointestinal tumors. We studied 36 adenomas and 178 large bowel carcinomas to evaluate the onset of angiogenesis in colorectal tumorigenesis and to assess the prognostic significance of microvessel quantitation. Endothelial cells were immunostained with an anti-CD31 mAb; in each case three microscopic fields (× 200) with the highest number of microvessels were counted: the average value of the three fields was used to evaluate the significance of microvessel density (MVD). MVD of normal mucosa (41 cases) served as controls. MVD was 42 ± 10 in the normal mucosa, 64 ± 10 in adenomas, and 115 ± 39 in carcinomas (normal versus adenomas, P < 0.001; adenomas versus carcinomas, P < 0.0001). The transitional mucosa adjacent to carcinomas displayed intermediate levels of MVD (89 ± 23; P < 0.001 versus adenomas; P < 0.001 versus carcinomas). High MVDs were not associated with metastases, disease stage, and patient survival. The data indicate that angiogenesis is an early, critical step in colorectal tumorigenesis. MVD, however, does not provide significant prognostic information in colorectal cancer patients.

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This study was supported by: Ministero dell' Universita' e della Ricerca Scientifica e Tecnologica (Rome, Italy), PF ACRO-Consiglio Nazionale delle Ricerche (Rome), Grant 158 from Regione Lombardia (Milan, Italy), Italian Association for Cancer Research (Milan), and the Eleanor Naylor Dana Charitable Foundation (New York, NY). Presented in part at the 84th Annual Meeting of the American and Canadian Academy of Pathology, Toronto, Ontario, Canada, 1995.

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