VEGFR3 expression is substantially higher among CD138-positive multiple myeloma (MM) plasma cells compared with those that are CD138-negative, according to an article published in the British Journal of Haematology.1

VEGFR1 and VEGFR3, as well as their ligands VEGFA, VEGFC, and VEGFD, are expressed by MM plasma cells. This study sought to determine the role of VEGFR3 signaling among patients with MM, particularly to investigate if there are differences between CD138-positive and -negative cells. Though the majority of MM cells are CD138-positive, many patients harbor a small subset that are CD138-negative.

The study included MM cells collected from 20 patients and separated by flow cytometry using CD38 and CD138.

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All MM plasma cells expressed CD138, and 18 of the samples also had a CD138-negative subset. All of the MM samples also expressed VEGFR3. The median proportion of MM cells expressing VEGFR3 was 94.8%.

CD138-positive and -negative cells demonstrated similar levels of expression of CD19, CD45, and CD56, but not VEGFR3. CD138-positive cells demonstrated significantly higher expression levels of VEGFR3 with a median of 1477.0% compared with 57.7% among CD138-negative cells (P < .0001; Spearman coefficient, 0.867).

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These results indicate that “the expression of CD138 highly correlates with that of VEGFR3,” and, “could provide a new approach to their further characterization,” wrote the authors.

The authors also noted that the high correlation “could imply a new, still unknown, role of VEGFR3 in the regulation of MM pathobiology.”


  1. Kostjukova MN, Tupitsyn NN, Karamysheva AF. Vascular endothelial growth factor receptor 3 is a novel marker differing CD138-positive and CD138-negative multiple myeloma cells. Br J Haematol. 2017 May 16. doi: 10.1111/bjh.14706 [Epub ahead of print]