'Trojan horse' technology destroys blood supply to cancer tumors in mice

Researchers at The University of Texas M. D. Anderson Cancer Center in Houston and The University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas have demonstrated in mice that a new drug formed by linking a vascular endothelial growth factor to a toxin will target and destroy the blood vessels supplying a malignant tumor.

Dr. Michael Rosenblum, Professor of Medicine at M. D. Anderson, said tests of VEGF121/rGelonin (VEGF/rGel) in mice demonstrated it could selectively destroy blood vessels supplying human solid tumors without harming the vasculature of normal tissue.

"This is like a 'Trojan horse' approach to kill the blood vessels that supply solid tumors. We're using the vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) as a carrier to deliver a toxic agent selectively to the tumor's blood supply in effect, starving the tumor," said Dr. Rosenblum, senior author of the study.

The research, which appears in the June 11 Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, was the result of an ongoing collaboration between UT Southwestern and M. D. Anderson. VEGF/rGel was designed jointly and developed at M. D. Anderson and UT Southwestern.

For the study, mice were injected with human melanoma and human prostate cancer cells. The research showed that tumor growth in the mice that received VEGF/rGel was reduced to 16 percent of that of the untreated mice, said Dr. Philip Thorpe, Professor of Pharmacology, who directed tests of VEGF/rGel at UT Southwestern with Dr. Sophia Ran, Assistant Professor of Pharmacology. Both are affiliated with the Harold C. Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at UT Southwestern.

"The anti-tumor effects of the VEGF/rGel fusion construct against both melanoma and human prostate cancer in mouse models was impressive in magnitude and prolonged," Dr. Thorpe said. "These studies suggest that VEGF/rGel has potential as an anti-tumor agent for treating cancer patients."

A clinical trial to test the new technique i

Contact: Wayne Carter
UT Southwestern Medical Center

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