Hypoxia in human tumors is associated with poor prognosis, but the molecular mechanisms underlying this association are poorly understood. One possibility is that hypoxia is linked to malignant progression through vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) induction and the associated angiogenesis and metastasis. The present clinical study measures hypoxia and VEGF expression on a cell-by-cell basis in human squamous cell carcinomas to test the hypothesis that hypoxia and VEGF protein expression are coupled in human tumors. Eighteen patients with invasive squamous cell carcinoma of the uterine cervix and head and neck have been investigated by a quantitative image analysis of immunostained sections from their tumors. The hypoxia marker pimonidazole was used to measure tumor hypoxia, and a commercially available antibody was used to measure VEGF protein expression. A quantitative immunohistochemical comparison of hypoxia and VEGF protein expression revealed no correlation between the two factors.
Supported by Department of Health and Human Services National Cancer Institute Grants CA50995 and CA68826 and the State of North Carolina.