Researchers have uncovered the important role of a molecule in directing the formation of blood supply to tumours. The protein receptor VEGFR-3 could represent a new drug target for cancer therapy.
Angiogenesis - the process of growing new blood vessels - involves a complex network of signalling molecules known as growth factors and their receptors. Cancer cells manipulate this process by inappropriately sending out growth factors to generate their own blood vessel network providing nutrients for growth.
The receptor VEGFR-2 is already known to be important for angiogenesis and is a major target for drug development. In Nature, Kari Alitalo and colleagues establish that the related protein VEGFR-3 has a previously unknown role in signalling blood vessel 'sprouting'. Using antibodies to block both receptors, the team found an additive effect in inhibition of tumour growth by effectively starving the cancer cells.
The findings could help to improve the efficacy of existing anti-angiogenic therapies and may prove useful in the combat against drug resistance, say the authors.
Kari Alitalo (University of Helsinki, Finland)
Abstract available online.
(C) Nature press release.
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