Vascular permeability factor/vascular endothelial growth factor: a critical cytokine in tumor angiogenesis and a potential target for diagnosis and therapy.
Vascular endothelial growth factor A (VEGF-A), the founding member of the vascular permeability factor (VPF)/VEGF family of proteins, is an important angiogenic cytokine with critical roles in tumor angiogenesis. This article reviews the literature with regard to VEGF-A's multiple functions, the mechanisms by which it induces angiogenesis, and its current and projected roles in clinical oncology. VEGF-A is a multifunctional cytokine that is widely expressed by tumor cells and that acts through receptors (VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2, and neuropilin) that are expressed on vascular endothelium and on some other cells. It increases microvascular permeability, induces endothelial cell migration and division, reprograms gene expression, promotes endothelial cell survival, prevents senescence, and induces angiogenesis. Recently, VEGF-A has also been shown to induce lymphangiogenesis. Measurements of circulating levels of VEGF-A may have value in estimating prognosis, and VEGF-A and its receptors are potential targets for therapy. Recognized as the single most important angiogenic cytokine, VEGF-A has a central role in tumor biology and will likely have an important role in future approaches designed to evaluate patient prognosis. It may also become an important target for cancer therapy.
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