Angiogenesis plays a significant role in tumor progression. This study examined the association between the number of circulating endothelial progenitor cells (EPCs), intratumoral microvessel density (MVD) (both of which may be markers for neovascularization), and lung cancer histological types, particularly adenocarcinoma histological subtypes. Methods: A total of 83 stage I non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) patients underwent complete tumor resection between November 2009 and July 2010. The number of EPCs from the pulmonary artery of the resected lungs was measured by assaying CD34+/vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 2 positive cells, and the MVD was assessed immunohistochemically in tumor specimens by staining for CD34. Results: A statistically significant correlation between the number of EPCs from pulmonary artery and intratumoral MVD was found (p < 0.001). No statistically significant differences in the number of EPCs and the MVD were observed between the adenocarcinomas and the squamous cell carcinomas. Among the adenocarcinoma histological subtypes, a higher number of EPCs and MVD were found significantly more frequently in solid adenocarcinomas than in nonsolid adenocarcinomas (p < 0.001 and p = 0.011, respectively). In addition, solid adenocarcinomas showed higher levels of vascular endothelial growth factor using quantitative real-time polymerase chain reaction in the tumor tissue samples than in the nonsolid adenocarcinomas (p = 0.005). Conclusion: The higher number of circulating EPCs and the MVD of solid adenocarcinoma may indicate the presence of differences in the tumor angiogenic status between early-stage adenocarcinoma histological subtypes. Among adenocarcinoma patients, patients with solid adenocarcinoma may be the best candidates for antiangiogenic therapies.
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