Open Access Research article

Microvessel density as new prognostic marker after radiotherapy in rectal cancer

Saulius Svagzdys1*, Vaiva Lesauskaite2, Dainius Pavalkis1, Irena Nedzelskienė4, Darius Pranys3 and Algimantas Tamelis1

Author Affiliations

1 Unit of Coloproctology, Department of Surgery, Kaunas Medical University Clinics, Eiveniu 2, Kaunas, Lithuania

2 Institute of Cardiology, Kaunas University of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania

3 Clinic of Pathological Anatomy, Kaunas University of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania

4 Clinic of Dental and Oral Pathology, Kaunas University of Medicine, Kaunas, Lithuania

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BMC Cancer 2009, 9:95  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-9-95

Published: 26 March 2009



The extent of angiogenesis is an important prognostic factor for colorectal carcinoma, however, there are few studies concerning changes in angiogenesis with radiotherapy (RTX). Our aim was to investigate changes in tumor angiogenesis influenced by radiotherapy to assess the prognostic value of angiogenesis the microvessel density (MVD) in overall survival after radiotherapy.


Tumor specimens were taken from 101 patients resected for rectal cancer. The patients were divided into three groups according to the treatment they received before surgery (not treated, a short course, or long course of RTX). Tumor specimens were paraffin-embedded and immunohistochemistry was performed with primary antibody against CD-34 to count MVD.


MVD was significantly lower in the group of patients treated with a long course of RTX (p <0.025). The mean MVD for the long RTX group was 134.8; for the short RTX group – 192.5; and for those not treated with RTX – 193.0. There were no significant statistical correlations between MVD and age, sex, grade of tumor differentiation (G) and tumor size (T) in those untreated with RTX. In long RTX group we found a significant prognostic rate for MVD when the density cut off was near 130 with 92.3% sensitivity and 64.7% specificity. When the MVD was lower than a cut off of 130, the survival period significantly increased (p = 0.001), the mortality rate is significantly higher if the MVD is higher than 130 (microvessel/mm2) (1953.047; p = 0.002), if the histological grade is moderate/poor (127.407; p = 0.013), if the tumor is T3/T4 (111.618; p = 0.014), and if the patient is male (17.92; p = 0.034) adjusted by other variable in model.


Our results show that a long course of radiotherapy significantly decreased angiogenesis in rectal cancer tissue. MVD was found to be a favourable marker for tumor behaviour during RTX and a predictor of overall survival after long course of RTX. Further investigations are now needed to determine the changes in angiogenesis during a shorter course of RTX.