Differential Expression of VEGFA Isoforms Regulates Metastasis and Response to Anti-VEGFA Therapy in Sarcoma

Elevated plasma concentrations of soluble VEGFA isoforms are associated with poor prognosis in parallel with improved response to treatment with the anti-VEGFA antibody bevacizumab. To uncover the underlying mechanism to these observations, we administered anti-VEGFA therapy to mice bearing luminescent mouse fibrosarcomas expressing single VEGFA isoforms or their wild-type counterparts expressing all isoforms (fs120, fs164, fs188, or fsWT). Expression of the more soluble isoforms conferred an advantage for lung metastasis from subcutaneous tumors (fs120/164 vs. fs188/WT); fs120 cells also produced more lung colonies than fs188 cells when injected intravenously. Metastasis from subcutaneous fs120 tumors was more sensitive than fs188 to treatment with the anti-VEGFA antibody B20-4.1.1. Despite elevated plasma levels of VEGFA in fs120 tumor-bearing mice and a dependence on VEGF receptor 1 activity for metastasis to the lung, B20-4.1.1 did not affect survival in the lung on intravenous injection. B20-4.1.1 inhibited subcutaneous tumor growth and decreased vascular density in both fs120 and fs188 tumors. However, migration of fs120, but not fs188 cells, in vitro was inhibited by B20-4.1.1. The greater survival of fs120 cells in the lung was associated with VEGFR1-dependent accumulation of CD11b-positive myeloid cells and higher expression of the VEGFR1 ligand, PlGF2, by the fs120 cells in vitro and in the plasma and lungs of fs120 tumor-bearing mice. We conclude that soluble VEGFA isoform expression increases fibrosarcoma metastasis through multiple mechanisms that vary in their sensitivity to anti-VEGF/VEGFR inhibition, with VEGFA-targeted therapy suppressing metastasis through effects on the primary tumor rather than the metastatic site. Cancer Res; 77(10); 2633–46. ©2017 AACR.

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