Angiogenesis, the sprouting of the existing vascular network to form new vessels, is required for the growth of solid tumors. For this reason, the primary stimulant of angiogenesis, vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF), is an attractive target for tumor therapy. In fact, there are currently numerous anti-VEGF therapies in clinical development for the treatment of various cancers, including breast cancer. VEGF signals through two primary VEGF receptors, VEGFR1 and VEGFR2. VEGFR2 is the primary angiogenic receptor, and VEGFR1 has been implicated in macrophage chemotaxis and tumor cell survival and invasion. It has only been appreciated recently that the VEGFRs are expressed not only on endothelial cells and tumor cells but also on many host immune cells. Therefore, to better understand the effects of anti-VEGF therapy it is important to consider the effects of VEGF on all cells in the tumor microenvironment, including immune cells. Bevacizumab (Avastin®, Genetech), which binds VEGF and inhibits interaction with VEGFR1 and VEGFR2, was approved for the treatment of metastatic HER2/NEU-negative breast cancer in 2008, however, the majority of human mammary tumors are either innately resistant or will acquire resistance to anti-VEGF therapy. This suggests that these tumors activate alternate angiogenesis pathways. Pleiotrophin (PTN) is an important angiogenic cytokine in breast cancer and is expressed at high levels in approximately 60% of human breast tumors. PTN functions as an angiogenic factor and promotes remodeling of the tumor microenvironment as well as epithelial-mesenchymal transition (EMT). In addition, PTN can have profound effects on macrophage phenotype. The present review focuses on the functions of VEGF and PTN on immune cell infiltration and function in breast cancer. Furthermore, we will discuss how anti-VEGF therapy modulates the immune cell profile.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research