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Next Cancer Treatments to Target Blood Supply

New Generation of Cancer Drugs Shows Promise in Starving Tumors

WebMD Health News

May 10, 2004 -- A new approach in cancer treatment that uses drugs designed to cut off the tumor's blood supply may soon become a valuable tool in improving existing cancer therapies.

The treatment involves using drugs that target and destroy blood vessel networks within the tumor to starve it of oxygen and other vital nutrients, which prevents further growth as well as promotes cell death within the tumor itself. These blood vessel networks also provide the opportunity for tumor cells to spread.

A review of recent research on the experimental approach suggests this group of drugs, known as vascular-disrupting agents (VDAs), have been proven effective in early, phase I clinical trials. As this class of cancer drugs moves into phase II clinical trials, researchers say they will likely prove most successful when used in combination with conventional chemotherapy and radiation therapy.

New Approach in Cancer Treatment

Researchers say two different approaches in targeting blood vessel networks within tumors are currently under investigation. The first, known as angiogenic inhibitor treatment, aims to prevent the formation of new blood vessel networks within the tumor, and the drugs are given continually over months or years.

The second approach uses VDAs that are designed to destroy the already established blood vessel networks within a tumor and are given for short periods of time.

In their review of studies on VDAs appearing in the current issue of the journal Cancer, researchers report that this approach has produced exciting results in cutting off the blood supply to tumors and inducing cell death within the tumor in animal and laboratory tests.

In addition, use of VDAs in combination with radiation and other forms of chemotherapy has improved treatment outcomes in early human tests. These drugs also appear safe for use in combination with these conventional cancer treatments.

Phase II clinical trials of VDAs in humans are currently under way, and researchers say they will determine whether these early successes in the lab will carry over to humans.

"Time will tell whether the exciting preclinical findings made using VDAs will be applicable in humans as well," writes researcher Dietmar W. Siemann, PhD, of the University of Florida, and colleagues.

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