Boston, Massachusetts (PressExposure) December 16, 2009 -- Researchers find that characteristics of blood vessels in a prostate cancer tumor may be an indicator of risk for metastasized cancer.
The growth of a tumor requires a vascular network that carries blood to the developing cells and in new research published online in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, researchers at Brigham and Women's Hospital (BWH) have found that the characteristics of the blood vessels within prostate tumor cells may indicate the aggressiveness of the cancer.
Researchers examined the blood vessels in prostate tumors from 572 mostly Caucasian men who underwent prostatectomy between 1986 and 2000. Researchers studied three qualities of the blood vessels within the prostate tumor cells: the diameter of the blood vessels, the vessel density - or how much of the area of the tissue sample was comprised by vessels, and the vessel lumen - or the roundness of the cross section of a vessel. Men whose tumors had either vessels that were smaller in diameter or abnormal lumens were more likely to have metastasized cancer. Vessel lumen was the strongest predictor of how the cancer would develop after treatment. Men with abnormal vessel lumen were 17 times more likely to develop lethal disease compared to men with circular, or regular shaped vessels. Men with the smallest vessel diameter were six times more likely to develop lethal prostate cancer. The density of the vessels was not associated with an increase in lethal cancer after adjusting for other clinical factors such as Gleason grade and prostate-specific antigen (PSA).
These findings are in line with research on other cancers, where the smaller size of blood vessels may also be a prognostic indicator for cancers such as melanoma and pancreatic cancer, giving these findings biological significance as well. "The morphologic characteristics of tumor vessels may better reflect the pattern and maturity of the growing vascular network. These smaller and more poorly formed vessels may be leakier and thus influencing cancer aggressiveness and metastatic potential," said Lorelei Mucci, ScD, MPH, lead researcher and an epidemiologist at BWH.
"The next step is to confirm these findings in prostate cancer biopsies," said Mucci. "If we can show that this is true in biopsies, then we may one day be able to tell a man at diagnosis what his prognosis may be 15 years later."
"More research is needed to verify our findings. If other groups are able to verify our findings, then a more standardized and automated way of classifying information about these vessels could be created to eventually aid clinical diagnosis and prognosis," Mucci said.