Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a subfamily of growth factors involved in angiogenesis; CD34+ cells are normally found in endothelial progenitor cells and endothelial cells of blood vessels. Colonic adenomatous polyps may not always be completely removable endoscopically, and a preoperative diagnosis might still be necessary. The aim of the study was to evaluate whether VEGF-A, VEGF-C and CD34 mRNA expression along colorectal carcinogenesis steps can implement NICE (Narrow-Band Imaging International Colorectal Endoscopic) classification in the diagnosis of malignancy in colorectal polypoid lesions.
Seventy-one subjects with colonic adenoma or cancer who underwent screening narrow-band imaging (NBI) colonoscopy were prospectively enrolled in the MICCE1 project (Treviso center). Polyps were classified according to the NICE classification. Real-time RT-PCR for VEGF-A, VEGF-C and CD34 mRNA expression was performed. Nonparametric statistics, receiver-operating characteristic curve analysis and logistic multiple regression analysis were used.
VEGF-A and CD34 mRNA expression was significantly higher in sessile adenomas than in polypoid ones (p < 0.001 and p = 0.01, respectively). VEGF-A, VEGF-C and CD34 mRNA expression was significantly higher in adenocarcinoma than in adenoma (p = 0.01, p = 0.01 and p = 0.01, respectively). The accuracy of VEGF-A, VEGF-C and CD34 mRNA expression for prediction of malignancy was 0.79 (95% CI 0.65-0.90), 0.81 (95% CI 0.66-0.91) and 0.80 (95% CI 0.65-0.90), respectively, while the accuracy of the NICE classification was 0.85 (95% CI 0.72-0.94). The determination coefficient R2, which indicates the amount of the variability explained by a regression model, for NICE classification alone was 0.24 (p < 0.001). A regression model that included NICE classification and VEGF-C mRNA expression showed an R2 = 0.39 as well as a model including NICE classification and CD34 mRNA levels.
This study demonstrated that VEGF-C and CD34 mRNA levels might be useful to stratify colorectal polyps in different risk of progression classes by implementing the accuracy of the NICE classification. Studies on in vivo detection of these markers are warranted.

© 2020 S. Karger AG, Basel.