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Why Angiogenesis Inhibitors Are important

Why Angiogenesis Inhibitors
Are important

New blood vessel formation through angiogenesis is essential to life. A constant blood supply to healthy tissues in the body such as skin, cartilage, and bone provides oxygen and nutrients for survival.

In the case of cancer, tumors need a blood supply to survive. The same processes that maintain normal life can get out of balance and support cancerous cells.

Chemicals in the body help regulate angiogenesis by stimulating activator and inhibitor molecules.

  • Activator Molecules accelerate cell growth
  • Inhibitor Molecules slow cell growth.
Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Most of the time, molecules blocking growth are more active in the body than molecules supporting growth. In normal tissues, the effects of activator (proangiogenic) molecules are perfectly counterbalanced with the necessary level of inhibitor (anti-angiogenic) molecules to create homeostasis.

But in the case of cancer and other situations (such as fetal development in the womb, menstruation, and wound healing), angiogenesis activators increase and the inhibitors decrease in order to prompt the formation of new blood vessels.

For cancer to grow there must be more activators than inhibitors. Scientists have determined that tumors initiate angiogenesis by releasing growth factors into the surrounding tissue.

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Angiogenesis inhibitors and metastatic cancer

Most people die from cancer only after it spreads, or metastasizes, to other parts of the body. Thus there is great interest in understanding what makes metastasis possible for a cancerous tumor.

In order to form another tumor at a distant location from the original one, some tumor cells must leave the initial or primary tumor and travel through the blood or lymphatic system to reach a distant location.

Metastasis occurs when cancer cells
  1. Penetrate into lymphatic and blood vessels
  2. Circulate through the bloodstream
  3. Invade and grow into normal tissues elsewhere in the body.

Image courtesy of the National Cancer Institute

Cancer therapies that can prevent, slow down, or block metastasis will improve survival.

Angiogenesis inhibitors may block metastases in two major ways:

1. Cancer sometimes spreads from the primary location to other areas of the body in tiny, microscopic metastases. These metastases can remain inactive for years and only begin to grow after the primary tumor is removed. Research indicates this happens due to angiogenesis inhibitors released into the bloodstream by the primary tumor. Preventing angiogenesis may help to stop microscopic metastases from spreading and growing.

2. Tumors treated with angiogenesis inhibitors may result in fewer blood vessels that can spread cancer cells from the original tumor.





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