Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibitors are the most promising anti-angiogenic agents used increasingly in the clinic. However, to be efficient, anti-VEGF agents need to be associated with classic chemotherapy. Exploring gene regulation in tumor cells during anti-angiogenesis might help to comprehend the molecular basis of response to treatment. To generate a defined anti-angiogenic condition in vivo, we transfected human glioma cells with short-interfering RNAs against VEGF-A and implanted them on the chick chorio-allantoic membrane. Gene regulation in avascular tumors was studied using human Affymetrix™ Gene-Chips. Potentially important genes were further studied in glioma patients. Despite strong VEGF inhibition, we observed recurrent formation of small, avascular tumors. CHI3L2, IL1B, PI3/elafin and CHI3L1, which encodes for YKL-40, a putative prognosticator for various diseases, including cancer, were strongly up-regulated in avascular glioma. In glioblastoma patients, these genes showed coregulation and their expression differed significantly from low-grade glioma. Importantly, high levels of CHI3L1 (p = 0.036) and PI3/elafin mRNA (p = 0.0004) were significantly correlated with poor survival. Cox regression analysis further confirmed that PI3 and CHI3L1 levels are survival markers independent from patient age and sex. Elafin-positive tumor cells were only found in glioblastoma, where they were clustered around necrotic areas. PI3/elafin is strongly induced by serum deprivation and hypoxia in U87 glioma cells in vitro. Our results indicate that anti-angiogenesis in experimental glioma drives expression of critical genes which relate to disease aggressiveness in glioblastoma patients. In particular, CHI3L1 and PI3/elafin may be useful as new prognostic markers and new therapeutic targets.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research