Elevated VEGF-D Modulates Tumor Inflammation and Reduces the Growth of Carcinogen-Induced Skin Tumors

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Abstract

Vascular endothelial growth factor D (VEGF-D) promotes the lymph node metastasis of cancer by inducing the growth of lymphatic vasculature, but its specific roles in tumorigenesis have not been elucidated. We monitored the effects of VEGF-D in cutaneous squamous cell carcinoma (cSCC) by subjecting transgenic mice overexpressing VEGF-D in the skin (K14-mVEGF-D) and VEGF-D knockout mice to a chemical skin carcinogenesis protocol involving 7,12-dimethylbenz[a]anthracene and 12-O-tetradecanoylphorbol-13-acetate treatments. In K14-mVEGF-D mice, tumor lymphangiogenesis was significantly increased and the frequency of lymph node metastasis was elevated in comparison with controls. Most notably, the papillomas regressed more often in K14-mVEGF-D mice than in littermate controls, resulting in a delay in tumor incidence and a remarkable reduction in the total tumor number. Skin tumor growth and metastasis were not obviously affected in the absence of VEGF-D; however, the knockout mice showed a trend for reduced lymphangiogenesis in skin tumors and in the untreated skin. Interestingly, K14-mVEGF-D mice showed an altered immune response in skin tumors. This consisted of the reduced accumulation of macrophages, mast cells, and CD4+ T-cells and an increase of cytotoxic CD8+ T-cells. Cytokine profiling by flow cytometry and quantitative real time PCR revealed that elevated VEGF-D expression results in an attenuated Th2 response and promotes M1/Th1 and Th17 polarization in the early stage of skin carcinogenesis, leading to an anti-tumoral immune environment and the regression of primary tumors. Our data suggest that VEGF-D may be beneficial in early-stage tumors since it suppresses the pro-tumorigenic inflammation, while at later stages VEGF-D-induced tumor lymphatics provide a route for metastasis.

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Honkanen, H. K., Izzi, V., Petäistö, T., Holopainen, T., Harjunen, V., Pihlajaniemi, T., … Heljasvaara, R. (2016). Elevated VEGF-D Modulates Tumor Inflammation and Reduces the Growth of Carcinogen-Induced Skin Tumors. Neoplasia (United States), 18(7), 436–446. https://doi.org/10.1016/j.neo.2016.05.002

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