It is widely accepted that angiogenesis is required for tumor progression. Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a key molecule for tumor angiogenesis; however, its expressional regulation is not well understood during all stages of tumorigenesis. Using cell lines and surgical specimens of human non-small cell lung cancers (NSCLCs), we here show that platelet-derived growth factor-AA (PDGF-AA) is an essential autocrine regulator for VEGF expression. To directly assess the expression of PDGF-AA-dependent VEGF and its roles in tumorigenesis, we stably transfected established cell lines with their antisense genes. In addition, the levels of PDGF-AA and VEGF expression in surgical sections were measured and compared with clinicopathologic findings such as tumor size and patient prognosis. PDGF-AA tightly regulated VEGF expression and had a greater effect on tumor size and patient prognosis than did VEGF in both cell lines and surgical sections. PDGF-AA expression was not seen in the atypical adenomatous hyperplasia at all, whereas VEGF was occasionally seen. Furthermore, the frequency of VEGF expression was higher in advanced NSCLCs than in precancerous lesions, which was tightly correspondent to the results for PDGF-AA. These results indicate that PDGF-AA is an important regulator of the frequency and level of VEGF expression during the transition from a precancerous lesion to advanced cancer. The PDGF-AA/VEGF axis, therefore, may be a ubiquitous autocrine system for enhancing angiogenic signals, and PDGF-AA, and its related pathways could be a more efficient target of antiangiogenic therapy for cancers than VEGF and its pathways.
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