CHICAGO -- If an anti-angiogenic drug is successfully starving a cancer patient's tumor to death, the number of endothelial cells circulating in the individual's bloodstream will decrease, thus providing a potential biomarker for gauging the medication's effectiveness, according to National Cancer Institute (NCI) research.
Previous studies have shown that the blood circulation of cancer patients has an abnormally high number of endothelial cells, which help construct blood vessels including those that feed the cancerous tumor.
"For a cancer to survive, grow and spread, a tumor needs to make more endothelial cells and construct new blood vessels to provide oxygen and other nutrients," said NCI scientist Haiqing Li, Ph.D., first author of the study.
"In addition to growing them directly from nearby blood vessels, tumors can also signal the body's bone marrow to boost the supply of endothelial cells in the blood circulation," Li added.
Results were presented at the first international meeting on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development, organized by the American Association for Cancer Research.
Anti-angiogenic drugs inhibit blood vessel development at the tumor by killing the endothelial cells lining tumor blood vessels and/or cutting off the supply of endothelial cells from bone marrow. These drugs are typically paired with chemotherapy agents. Unlike anti-angiogenic drugs, chemotherapy agents directly assault tumor cells, and a reliable therapeutic biomarker for evaluating these agents is whether there are fewer cells in the tumor, or more, or just the same amount as before the treatment. Some chemotherapy drugs, Li noted, also have the benefit of being toxic to endothelial cells, providing a possible second biomarker for those agents.
But biomarkers have yet to be defined for anti-angiogenic drugs. "Many anti-angiogenic drugs may encounter problems during clinical studies, because they can
Contact: Warren Froelich
American Association for Cancer Research