A new type of engineered dual-action protein has been created by Stanford University researchers. This protein prevents the cancer cells from creating blood vessels, blocking the blood and nutrient supply and thereby halting the tumor growth.
The engineered protein blocks not one, but two of the chemical receptors that control the creation of new capillaries - a process known as angiogenesis.
When delivered in a nutrient-rich matrix and implanted in mice, the Stanford protein showed dramatic ability to halt the creation of new capillaries.
"Samples treated with our dual-action protein have minimal blood vessel formation, similar to a sample in which angiogenic factors are absent," said lead researcher Jennifer Cochran, PhD, assistant professor of bioengineering.
"Importantly, this engineered protein more strongly inhibits angiogenic processes compared to single-receptor blockers," she added.
Beyond cancer, Cochran noted, the prevention of angiogenesis could prove helpful in the treatment of diseases such as macular degeneration, one form of which can lead to visual impairment or even blindness when unchecked capillaries grow in the retina.
The discovery has been published online Aug. 8 in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.