What is Angiogenesis?
Angiogenesis is the formation of new blood vessels.
The process involves the growth of endothelial cells, which line the inside walls of blood vessels.
Angiogenesis is a normal and vital process in growth and development, but it also plays a role in several diseases, including cancers.
A blood supply is necessary for tumors to grow beyond a few millimeters in size and transition from a benign state to a malignant one. In other words, angiogenesis is a cause for concern with tumors because it feeds and sustains them.
Without a proper blood supply, a tumor wouldn’t be able to grow beyond a certain size or spread, so scientists are trying to find ways to block tumor angiogenesis.
NFCR Research Highlights
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.
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 and his team are aiming to identify molecular resistance pathways and characteristics that cause resistance to anti-angiogenic therapy and may direct the development of new drugs that target these pathways and could extend the benefits of anti-angiogenic therapies for patients.
Dr. Jain is 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 and immunotherapy called immune checkpoint inhibitors for GBM patients.
In collaboration, research conducted by NFCR-funded scientists, Dr. Paul Schimmel and Dr. Xiang-Lei Yang, has determined that the vital protein synthesis enzyme, SerRS, shuts down angiogenesis in breast cancer by inhibiting one of the main genes that controls the expression of VEGF. SerRS is likely a potent suppressor of cancer progression and metastasis. Their research may lead to novel therapeutic applications for breast cancer.