Up-regulation of endothelial delta-like 4 expression correlates with vessel maturation in bladder cancer.
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PURPOSE: Angiogenesis and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) expression are associated with a poor outcome in bladder cancer. To understand more about the mechanisms, we studied the role of delta-like 4 (DLL4), an endothelial-specific ligand of the Notch signaling pathway, in bladder cancer angiogenesis. EXPERIMENTAL DESIGN: The expression of DLL4, CD34, and VEGF were studied in a cohort of 60 bladder tumors and 10 normal samples using quantitative PCR. In situ hybridization was used to study the pattern of DLL4 expression in 22 tumor and 9 normal samples. Serial sections were also stained for CD34 and alpha-smooth muscle actin (alpha-SMA) using conventional immunohistochemistry. RESULTS: The expression of DLL4 was significantly up-regulated in superficial (P < 0.01) and invasive (P < 0.05) bladder cancers. DLL4 expression significantly correlated with CD34 (P < 0.001) and VEGF (P < 0.001) expression. The in situ hybridization studies showed that DLL4 was highly expressed within bladder tumor vasculature. Additionally, DLL4 expression significantly correlated with vessel maturation as judged by periendothelial cell expression of alpha-SMA, 98.7% of DLL4-positive tumor vessels coexpressed alpha-SMA, compared with 64.5% of DLL4-negative tumor vessels (P < 0.001). High DLL4 expression may have prognostic value in superficial and invasive bladder. CONCLUSION: DLL4 expression is associated with vascular differentiation in bladder cancer; thus, targeting DLL4 may be a novel antiangiogenic therapy.
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