The importance of neovascularization and its inhibition for allogeneic hematopoietic stem cell transplantation

Olaf Penack, Gerard Socié and Marcel R. M. van den Brink


GVHD and tumor relapse are fundamental problems in allogeneic HSCT. Recent research has linked neovascularization to GVHD, tumor growth, and graft-versus-tumor (GVT) activity. Damage of the endothelium by the conditioning regimen provides the initiation stimulus for recruitment of donor-derived endothelial cells and their progenitors. During the early inflammatory phase of GVHD there is considerable neovascularization facilitating migration of inflammatory cells to target organs. In the course of GVHD, however, the vasculature itself becomes a target of alloreactive donor T cells. As a consequence, later stages of GVHD are characterized by fibrosis and rarefaction of blood vessels. Importantly, the inhibition of tumor-neovascularization by activated donor T cells that release antiangiogenic substances contributes to GVT and may be enhanced by pharmacologic inhibition of neovascularization. Furthermore, the therapeutic inhibition of neovascularization may improve immunotherapy for cancer by enhancing leukocyte infiltration in tumor tissue because of normalization of tumor vessels and stimulation of leukocyte–vessel wall interactions. These insights identify important mechanisms underlining the importance of neovascularization for allogeneic immune responses and move therapeutic approaches targeting neovascularization into the spotlight. This perspective covers current knowledge of the role of neovascularization during GVHD as well as GVT and its implications for HSCT.

  • Submitted October 12, 2010.
  • Accepted January 6, 2011.
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