Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and similar molecules are currently under investigation as potential treatments for heart disease because of their amazing ability to stimulate the growth of new blood vessels. However, a controversial report in the April issue of Nature Medicine (Vol. 7, No. 4, 01 Apr 2001) suggests that such molecules have a downside-they cause atherosclerosis. Michael Dake and colleagues from Stanford University Medical Center tested the ability of VEGF to cause the growth of atherosclerotic plaques in mice and rabbits that are prone to developing the condition. They found that low doses of the molecule significantly increased the size of plaques in major arteries in the animals. If the same thing happens in humans, it may be that people that are predisposed to atherosclerosis should be excluded from treatment with VEGF drugs.
Anthony Ware of Albert Einstein College of Medicine discusses the clinical implications of the study in an accompanying News & Views article. He points out that among the 800 or so patients have received agents such as VEGF so far, there has been no reported increase in the number of cardiac events, suggesting that if VEGF promotes atherosclerosis, it does so at a level that does not worsen clinical outcome.
Michael D. Dake, M.D.
Stanford University Medical Center
Cardiovascular Research Center
Department of Cardiothoracic Surgery
300 Pasteur Drive
Stanford, CA 94305-5407
Tel: + 1 650 725-6407
Fax: + 1 650 725-3846
Dr. J. Anthony Ware
Department of Cardiology
Albert Einstein College of Medicine
1300 Morris Park Avenue
Forchheimer Bldg, G-46
Bronx, NY 10461
Tel: +1 718.430.3087
Fax: +1 718.430.8989
(C) Nature Medicine press release.
Message posted by: Trevor M. D'Souza