Two new studies published in the Journal of Clinical Oncology suggest that women who had high levels of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein produced by breast cancer cells, may be more likely to suffer recurrences or die from the disease than are women with low levels of VEGF. Cancerous tumors depend on surrounding blood vessels for nourishment for growth, and VEGF stimulates the growth of blood vessels.
In the first study, conducted at Sweden’s Umed University Hospital, researchers studied 525 women with breast cancer that was invasive, but had not spread to the woman’s lymph nodes. After following the women for an average of just under four years, researchers found that women with high VEGF levels were almost 3 times more likely to die than those with lower VEGF levels.
The second study of 305 women conducted by doctors at the University Women’s Clinic in Basel, Switzerland, found that women with higher VEGF levels were more likely to suffer a relapse or recurrence of breast cancer. Researchers hope that by screening VEGF levels, patients with the highest chance for recurrence will someday be easily identified.