Association of hypoxia-inducible factors 1alpha and 2alpha with activated angiogenic pathways and prognosis in patients with endometrial carcinoma.
Sivridis E., Giatromanolaki A., Gatter KC., Harris AL., Koukourakis MI., Tumor and Angiogenesis Research Group None.
BACKGROUND: Hypoxia-inducible factor 1alpha (HIF-1alpha) and HIF-2alpha are essential regulatory proteins for the adaptation of tumor cells to hypoxia, and they stimulate angiogenesis through activation of the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) gene. METHODS: HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha proteins were studied immunohistochemically in a group of 81 patients with Stage I endometrial adenocarcinoma of the endometrioid cell type. The results were correlated with intratumoral angiogenesis, the expression of the angiogenic factors VEGF and thymidine phosphorylase (TP), and the VEGF/receptor (VEGF/KDR) complex. Relations also were sought with estrogen receptor (ER) and progesterone receptor (PR), with the apoptosis-related proteins bcl-2 and p53, with several histopathologic parameters, and with patient prognosis. In addition, a sample of 25 normal endometria at various phases of the menstrual cycle was studied for the presence of HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha. RESULTS: HIF-1alpha expression was detected in 49% of endometrial carcinomas. The expression was cytoplasmic or mixed nuclear/cytoplasmic. HIF-1alpha expression was associated with up-regulation of the VEGF pathway and with increased standard microvessel density (sMVD) and activated VEGF/KDR microvessel density (aMVD). It also was associated with a poor prognosis in both univariate and multivariate analyses. HIF-2alpha protein showed a pattern of expression similar to the pattern seen in HIF-1alpha, but expression of HIF-2alpha protein occurred in only 17% of endometrial carcinomas, and it was associated with increased TP reactivity. There also was a relation of HIF-1alpha expression with well-differentiated endometrial neoplasms, and there was a marginal association of HIF-1alpha and HIF-2alpha with ER expression. With reference to normally cycling tissues, HIF-1alpha nuclear/cytoplasmic expression was particularly strong in the samples of early proliferative phase endometrium compared with HIF-2alpha protein expression, which showed a constant reaction throughout the menstrual cycle. CONCLUSIONS: The up-regulation of HIF-1alpha and, to a lesser extent, of HIF-2alpha is a common event in Stage I endometrial adenocarcinomas. In these tumors, HIF-1alpha expression is related to increased angiogenesis, through activation of the VEGF angiogenic pathway, and to an unfavorable prognosis. HIF-2alpha accumulation is associated with increased expression of the angiogenic factor TP.