Rapidly proliferating cancer cells can squash the blood vessels inside tumours, making it difficult for anti-cancer drugs to reach and destroy their target, according to a Brief Communication in Nature (19 February 2004, Vol. 427, No. 6976, p. 695). Strategies that reduce this compression may help improve drug delivery.
Rakesh K. Jain and colleagues grafted human cancer cells into mice. When the animals were treated with diphtheria toxin - a drug that preferentially kills human rather than mouse cells - the tumour cells began to die off. The treatment relieves the compressive pressure on blood and lymph vessels inside the tumour, allowing them to open up once more.
Despite the potential benefits of anti-compression therapies, the authors are cautious. Newly opened blood vessels may improve the efficiency of drug delivery, but they will also enhance access for nutrients and could provide an escape route for spreading cancer cells.
Rakesh K. Jain
Massachusetts General Hospital
Tel: +1 617 726 4083
(C) Nature press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza