Cyclooxygenase-2 expression and angiogenesis in squamous cell carcinoma of the skin and its precursors: a paired immunohistochemical study of 35 cases.
Nijsten T., Colpaert CG., Vermeulen PB., Harris AL., Van Marck E., Lambert J.
BACKGROUND: Cyclooxygenase (COX)-2 expression and tumour-induced angiogenesis appear to be increased in squamous cell carcinoma (SCC) of the skin. In other cancers, COX-2 is a pro-angiogenic factor. The association between angiogenesis and COX-2 has not been studied in skin cancer. OBJECTIVES: To assess the onset of increased COX-2 expression and angiogenesis in the multistage carcinogenesis of SCC as well as the correlation between those two parameters. PATIENTS/METHODS: We performed a retrospective paired immunohistochemical analysis of normal skin, actinic keratosis (AK), Bowen's disease (BD) and SCC among 35 individuals. Specimens were considered COX-2 immunopositive when 5% or more of the tumour cells showed clear evidence of immunostaining. To quantify active angiogenesis, we used a Ki-67-CD34 double-labelling immunohistochemical stain and calculated the fraction of proliferating endothelial cells. The Chalkley method was used to determine the microvessel density. To detect hypoxia, a carboanhydrase IX immunostain was used. RESULTS: Compared with normal epidermis (0%), AK (31%), BD (22%) and SCC (40%) were significantly more likely to be COX-2 immunopositive (P < 0.01). The fraction of proliferating endothelial cells and the Chalkley scores paralleled multistage carcinogenesis (P < 0.05 between different stages). COX-2 immunopositivity was fairly correlated with hypoxia and higher proliferating endothelial cell fractions but not with Chalkley counts. CONCLUSIONS: Induction of COX-2 expression and angiogenesis are both early events in the development of SCC. In addition to ultraviolet light, hypoxia and COX-2 may be involved in skin tumour angiogenesis.