Scientists have made a signficant step forward in their attempt to starve cancer tumours by stopping the growth of the blood vessels that feed them nutrients. Four drugs that disrupt angiogenesis - blood vessel formation - have been shown for the first time to be effective. It also provides the first indication that the drugs, known as angiogenesis inhibitors, vary in effectiveness depending on the stage of cancer targeted.
Senior researcher Dr Douglas Hanahan, professor of biochemistry at the University of California in San Francisco, USA, said: " We've shown that these drugs have beneficial effects when used to treat mice developing organ-specific cancer ". The work on mice is significant because scientists believe it closely mirrors the conditions found in human tumours. Mice used in the study were genetically engineered to produce a form of cancer of the pancreas.
The scientists tested drugs to see if they could stop the signals that are emitted to trigger the formation of the blood vessels that fuel the growth of tumours. Four compounds, known as AGM-1470, BB-94, angiostatin and endostatin, together with a combination of the last two, were tested.
They found that if administered early enough all the drugs prevented the tumour from triggering the formation of blood vessels in more than half the cases where it should have occurred. All four drugs were effective, impairing growth by between 60% and 88%. Dr Hanahan said: "Our findings are encouraging about the potential value of angiogenesis inhibitors for treating cancer; we believe we can do even better."