Venous malformations (VMs) are composed of ectatic veins with scarce smooth muscle cell coverage. Activating mutations in the endothelial cell tyrosine kinase receptor TIE2 are a common cause of these lesions. VMs cause deformity, pain, and local intravascular coagulopathy, and they expand with time. Targeted pharmacological therapies are not available for this condition. Here, we generated a model of VMs by injecting HUVECs expressing the most frequent VM-causing TIE2 mutation, TIE2-L914F, into immune-deficient mice. TIE2-L914F–expressing HUVECs formed VMs with ectatic blood-filled channels that enlarged over time. We tested both rapamycin and a TIE2 tyrosine kinase inhibitor (TIE2-TKI) for their effects on murine VM expansion and for their ability to inhibit mutant TIE2 signaling. Rapamycin prevented VM growth, while TIE2-TKI had no effect. In cultured TIE2-L914F–expressing HUVECs, rapamycin effectively reduced mutant TIE2-induced AKT signaling and, though TIE2-TKI did target the WT receptor, it only weakly suppressed mutant-induced AKT signaling. In a prospective clinical pilot study, we analyzed the effects of rapamycin in 6 patients with difficult–to-treat venous anomalies. Rapamycin reduced pain, bleeding, lesion size, functional and esthetic impairment, and intravascular coagulopathy. This study provides a VM model that allows evaluation of potential therapeutic strategies and demonstrates that rapamycin provides clinical improvement in patients with venous malformation.
Elisa Boscolo, Nisha Limaye, Lan Huang, Kyu-Tae Kang, Julie Soblet, Melanie Uebelhoer, Antonella Mendola, Marjut Natynki, Emmanuel Seront, Sophie Dupont, Jennifer Hammer, Catherine Legrand, Carlo Brugnara, Lauri Eklund, Miikka Vikkula, Joyce Bischoff, Laurence M. Boon