Background: Hypoxia inducible factor (HIF)-1α is a critical regulatory protein of cellular response to hypoxia and is closely related to angiogenic process.
Aims: To explore the potential role and the prognostic value of HIF-1α in urothelial carcinoma (UC).
Methods: Clinicopathological and follow-up data on 99 UC cases were reviewed and immunostained for HIF-1α, CD68, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and CD34 antigen. Tumour-associated macrophage (TAM) counts and HIF-1α expression were compared with clinicopathologic characteristics, overall survival (OS) and disease-free survival rates (DFS).
Results: High expression of HIF-1α was detected in 55 of 99 (55.6%) tumours. HIF-1α expression was correlated with tumour size, histological grade, tumour invasiveness and recurrence. VEGF and microvessel density (MVD) demonstrated their positive correlation with HIF-1α overexpression, supporting the correlation of HIF-1α up-regulation with tumour angiogenesis. Higher TAM infiltration was identified in high expression of HIF-1α cases rather than HIF-1α low expression cases (p = 0.002). Kaplan–Meier analysis found that HIF-1α overexpression and high TAM count was only associated with worse DFS (p = 0.009, p = 0.023) but was not associated with OS (p = 0.696, p = 0.141). Multivariate analyses indicated only tumour size (p = 0.038) to be an independently significant prognostic factor for OS, in addition, HIF-1α expression (p = 0.011), as well as histological grade (p = 0.038), and MVD (p = 0.004), to be independently significant prognostic factors for DFS.
Conclusions: Our results indicate that HIF-1α is a key regulator of the angiogenic cascade. We show that HIF-1α is an independent prognostic factor for disease-free survival.
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Competing interests: None declared.
Funding: This work was supported by a grant 5N-01 from Kaohsiung Medical University Hospital and the National Sun Yat-Sen University-Kaohsiung Medical University Joint Research Center, Kaohsiung, Taiwan.