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"Trojan Horse" Agent Halts Bone Metastasis in Mice

A novel vascular targeting agent completely prevented the development of bone tumors in 50 percent of the mice tested in a preclinical //study, providing early evidence that it could treat, or thwart, growth of tumors in bone, a common destination for a number of cancers when they start to spread.

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center reported in the journal Cancer Research that this "Trojan Horse" agent, VEGF121/rGel, stopped specialized cells within the bone from chewing up other bone material to make room for the implanted tumor to grow.

Although this study tested the ability of VEGF121/rGel to halt the growth of human prostate cancer cells in the bones of mice, investigators say it likely could help prevent the growth of other cancers in bones such as breast, multiple myeloma, lung and renal cell.

"Many tumors invade bone in the same way, so these findings suggest it may be possible to shut down this process regardless of the tumor type," says the study's lead author, Michael G. Rosenblum, Ph.D., professor in the Department of Experimental Therapeutics. "If that could be done - and we are a long way from determining if it is possible - we may be able to offer the first treatment that specifically targets bone metastasis."

The study also revealed critical information about the role of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in the development of tumors in bone, says Rosenblum. VEGF is a signaling protein involved in the creation of new blood vessels, but in this study the researchers found that it plays a surprising role in the remodeling of bone tissue.

In the normal maintenance of bones, a balance exists between activity of cells known as osteoclasts, which break down and resorb bone matrix, and osteoblasts, which form new bone. Researchers know that tumor cells that metastasize to bones release VEGF, but what they did not know is whether the protein interrupted bone mai
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