VEGF stands for Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor. VEGF is a growth factor that promotes the growth of new blood vessels. The body makes VEGF in response to low oxygen levels, also known as hypoxia. Thus, when tissues are receiving too little oxygen rich blood flow, VEGF is produced to provide a better blood supply to the tissues. VEGF also increases the permeability or leakiness of blood vessels. In fact, one form of VEGF, VEGF-A was once known as vascular permeability factor. VEGF plays a role in cell metabolism, bone formation, and blood cell creation (hematopoiesis). Unfortunately, cancer cells also produce VEGF to help improve their own blood flow. Interestingly, cancer treatments have been developed to block the action of VEGF to starve cancerous tumors of blood flow.
The significance of a VEGF level that is too low is unknown.
An elevated VEGF level in the serum may indicate the presence of cancer. Chronic states of hypoxia such as COPD may increase VEGF levels. In addition, people with serious or chronic wounds may have elevated VEGF levels. VEGF is produced in people with low platelet levels (thrombocytopenia).
Some specific causes of high VEGF are:
- Solid cancers (e.g. gastric cancer)
- Non-Hodgkin lymphomas,
- Acute myeloid and lymphoid leukemias,6,12,13
- Chronic myeloid and lymphoid leukemias13 and
- Myelodysplastic syndromes
- Idiopathic myelofibrosis
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