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The relationship between lymphatic vascular density and vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A) expression with clinical-pathological features and survival in pancreatic adenocarcinomas

Verônica A Zorgetto1, Giórgia G Silveira1, João Paulo Oliveira-Costa1, Danilo F Soave1, Fernando A Soares2 and Alfredo Ribeiro-Silva1*

Author affiliations

1 Departament of Pathology, Ribeirão Preto Medical School, University of São Paulo, 3900 Bandeirantes Avenue, Ribeirão Preto, São Paulo, Brazil

2 Departament of Pathologic Anatomy A. C. Camargo Cancer Center São Paulo, São Paulo, Brazil

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Citation and License

Diagnostic Pathology 2013, 8:170  doi:10.1186/1746-1596-8-170

Published: 18 October 2013



Pancreatic cancer is a rare tumor with an extremely low survival rate. Its known risk factors include the chronic use of tobacco and excessive alcohol consumption and the presence of chronic inflammatory diseases, such as pancreatitis and type 2 diabetes. Angiogenesis and lymphangiogenesis, which have been the focus of recent research, are considered prognostic factors for cancer development. Knowing the angiogenic and lymphangiogenic profiles of a tumor may provide new insights for designing treatments according to the different properties of the tumor. The aim of this study was to evaluate the density of blood and lymphatic vessels, and the expression of VEGF-A, in pancreatic adenocarcinomas, as well as the relationship between blood and lymphatic vascular density and the prognostically important clinical-pathological features of pancreatic tumors.


Paraffin blocks containing tumor samples from 100 patients who were diagnosed with pancreatic cancer between 1990 and 2010 were used to construct a tissue microarray. VEGF expression was assessed in these samples by immunohistochemistry. To assess the lymphatic and vascular properties of the tumors, 63 cases that contained sufficient material were sectioned routinely. The sections were then stained with the D2-40 antibody to identify the lymphatic vessels and with a CD34 antibody to identify the blood vessels. The vessels were counted individually with the Leica Application Suite v4 program. All statistical analyses were performed using SPSS 18.0 (Chicago, IL, USA) software, and p values ≤ 0.05 were considered significant.


In the Cox regression analysis, advanced age (p=0.03) and a history of type 2 diabetes (p=0.014) or chronic pancreatitis (p=0.02) were shown to be prognostic factors for pancreatic cancer. Blood vessel density (BVD) had no relationship with clinical-pathological features or death. Lymphatic vessel density (LVD) was inversely correlated with death (p=0.002), and by Kaplan-Meyer survival analysis, we found a significant association between low LVD (p=0.021), VEGF expression (p=0.023) and low patient survival.


Pancreatic carcinogenesis is related to a history of chronic inflammatory processes, such as type 2 diabetes and chronic pancreatitis. In pancreatic cancer development, lymphangiogenesis can be considered an early event that enables the dissemination of metastases. VEGF expression and low LVD can be considered as poor prognostic factors as tumors with this profile are fast growing and highly aggressive.

Virtual slides

The virtual slide(s) for this article can be found here: webcite

Pancreatic cancer; VEGF-A; Angiogenesis; Lymphangiogenesis; Immunohistochemistry; Tissue microarray; Prognosis