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New Angiogenesis Finding May Help Fight Cancer Growth

form the tubes that are the precursors to new blood vessels," Bresnick says. "Then we got excited."

Further tests showed that NK-B could inhibit angiogenesis in four ways. It prevents the production of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a key stimulator of blood-vessel formation, and also reduces the number of receptor molecules that respond to VEGF. NK-B also slows the movement of endothelial cells, which is necessary to form new vessels, and raises the level of a newly discovered angiogenesis inhibitor.

"It's premature to call it a master switch, but intriguingly, it regulates at least four different processes, each of which individually would be anti-angiogenic," says Bresnick.

Angiogenesis inhibitors, Bresnick observes, are a fast-growing field of medicine. This June, the Food and Drug Administration approved an angiogenesis inhibitor as the first drug that can restore some vision in the more severe ("wet") form of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Wet AMD occurs when leaky blood vessels form in the retina. Along with a similar growth of new blood vessels in diabetes, it is the major cause of blindness in older adults.

But the "holy grail" of angiogenesis inhibition concerns cancer treatment. Before solid tumors start to grow, they must create a new blood supply, and since adults need angiogenesis only during pregnancy and to heal wounds, blocking angiogenesis could be a promising way to halt tumor growth. Also in June, the FDA approved a compound that inhibits VEGF for treating colon cancer, the second-leading cause of cancer death in the United States. The VEGF-inhibitor reduces the formation of blood vessels, helping starve tumors.

But angiogenesis regulation is a two-way street, and there are some diseases in which it might be desirable to stimulate angiogenesis. The new research shows that the NK-B system can work both ways: Reducing inhibition seems to increase angiogenesis.


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