Dr. Harold F. Dvorak, who received NFCR funding for over 30 years, discovered that tumor cells secrete a vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and this discovery provided the molecular basis for the field of angiogenesis. Dr. Dvorak’s discovery helped pave the way for research on anti-angiogenesis treatments that can halt and even reverse tumor growth.
In 2004, the first VEGF-targeting anti-angiogenic drug Avastin® was approved by the FDA for the treatment of colorectal cancer, and, today, in addition to colorectal cancer, Avastin is approved for the treatment of non-small cell lung cancer, renal cell carcinoma (a type of kidney cancer), the aggressive brain cancer glioblastoma multiforme (GBM) and certain types of cervical and ovarian cancers. More than 280 clinical trials are currently investigating the use of Avastin in over 50 tumor types.
NFCR-funded scientist Dr. Rakesk Jain’s seminal research demonstrated that anti-angiogenic therapy works by normalizing the abnormal, leaky blood vessels that usually surround and penetrate tumors. This therapy improves the delivery of chemotherapy drugs, increases the oxygen content of cancer cells and makes radiation treatments more effective.
Dr. Jain is now focused on the role of angiogenesis in GBM, the deadliest form of brain cancer. Dr. Jain’s research is helping doctors better tailor the use of anti-angiogenic therapies by identifying the characteristics that cause resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy for GBM patients. Additionally, Dr. Jain and his team are aiming to identify molecular resistance pathways that may direct the development of new drugs that target these pathways and could extend the benefits of anti-angiogenic therapies for patients.