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Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Expression of HIF-1alpha and VEGF in colorectal cancer: association with clinical outcomes and prognostic implications

Dan Cao, Mei Hou*, Yong-song Guan, Ming Jiang, Yu Yang and Hong-feng Gou

Author Affiliations

Department of Medical Oncology, Cancer Center of West China Hospital, Sichuan University, Chengdu, China

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:432  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-432

Published: 10 December 2009



Hypoxia-inducible factor 1 alpha (HIF-1α) and vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) are frequently overexpressed in numerous types of cancers and are known to be important regulators of angiogenesis. Until now, few studies have been carried out to investigate the prognostic role of these factors in solid tumors, especially in colorectal cancer (CRC). The purpose of this study was to evaluate the expression of HIF-1α and VEGF in CRC tissues, and to analyze the association of these two factors with several clinical and pathological characteristics, and patients' survival.


Paraffin-embedded tissue samples were retrospectively collected from 71 CRC patients, who received surgical resection between 2001 and 2002, with a median follow-up of 5 years. We examined the patterns of expression of HIF-1α and VEGF by immunohistochemistry method. Statistical analysis was performed with univariate tests and multivariate Cox proportional hazards model to evaluate the differences.


Expression of HIF-1α and VEGF was positively observed in 54.93% and 56.34% among the patients, respectively. HIF-1α and VEGF status were significantly associated with tumor stage, lymph nodes and liver metastases (P < 0.05). Expression of both HIF-1α and VEGF remained significantly associated with overall survival (OS) (P < 0.01), and HIF-1α was positively correlative to VEGF in CRC (r = 0.72, P < 0.001).


HIF-1α and VEGF could be used as biomarkers indicating tumors in advanced stage and independently implied poor prognosis in patients with CRC. Treatment that inhibits HIF-1α might be a promising targeted approach in CRC to exhibit its potential to improve outcomes in future perspective, just as VEGF targeting has proved to be.