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Unexpected lock and key mechanism found for the assembly of tumor blood vessels

A critical lock and key mechanism that allows the final step in the completion of new blood vessel formation has been identified by a University of California, San Diego (UCSD) School of Medicine team in research that promises to lead to a new way to halt tumor growth by cutting off the tumor blood supply.

The research team led by Judith Varner, Ph.D., Associate Professor of Medicine at UCSD and a member of the Rebecca and John Moores UCSD Cancer Center, made the surprising discovery that a receptor-ligand pair previously identified as key regulators of immune cell function puts the finishing touches on newly constructed blood vessels by allowing the two cell layers of blood vessels to recognize and "lock" together.

The study, which appears in the June 2005 issue of the Journal of Clinical Investigation, is the first to show how the two cell layers of blood vessels recognize and bind to each other during angiogenesis, which is the formation of new blood vessels.

The work also could yield new ways to diagnose and combat cancer. In fact, together with Barbara Parker, M.D., UCSD Professor of Clinical Medicine at the Moores UCSD Cancer Center, the researchers currently are conducting tests with breast cancer patients to see if measuring the activity of the receptor, or "lock," called integrin, could help diagnose the cancer earlier. They are also currently planning cancer clinical trials with an FDA approved drug directed against the integrin.

Angiogenesis has been an intensely studied field of cancer research for the past 10 years. Since cancer cells literally hijack the body's normal angiogenesis process to initiate blood vessel growth to fuel the growth of tumors, researchers believe that blocking angiogenesis may choke off a tumor's blood supply and kill the cancerous cell.

Varner and her team found that a specific integrin protein called alpha4beta1 was produced at high levels in one part of a developing blood vessel, the inte
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Source:University of California - San Diego


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