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Study shows naturally occurring proteins protect against rapid tumor growth

BOSTON Research led by investigators at Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC) helps explain how a group of angiogenesis inhibitor molecules serve as an important defense mechanism against the development and spread of cancer, offering key insights into why cancerous tumors grow at different rates among different individuals.

The findings, which could help lead to the development of new drug treatments to help keep existing tumors at bay, are reported in the early edition of the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (PNAS) and in the Feb. 22 edition of the publication.

Angiogenesis, the process by which new blood vessels are derived from preexisting capillaries, is considered essential for tumor growth. The "angiogenic switch" is turned on when levels of angiogenesis stimulator molecules (VEGF, bFGF) exceed those of angiogenesis inhibitor molecules. These proteins which include tumstatin, endostatin and thrombospondin-1 are naturally present in body fluids or tissues, providing a counterbalance to the stimulator molecules.

Earlier studies by the paper's senior author Raghu Kalluri, PhD, published in Science and Cancer Cell in 2002 and 2003, respectively, helped to explain the mechanisms by which tumstatin and endostatin prevent the growth of new blood vessels.

Based on these earlier findings, and coupled with two separate clinical observations that Down syndrome patients have a significantly smaller incidence of cancer than the population-at-large and that nonsymptomatic microscopic tumors exist in the organs of healthy individuals Kalluri hypothesized that angiogenic inhibitor molecules were acting as tumor suppressors to control the rate of cancer progression.

"For several decades now, autopsies have shown that many people [between ages 40 and 50] who have died of trauma [i.e. automobile accidents, suicide] have tiny dormant tumors in one or more of their organs, though only one percent have been diagnos
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Contact: Bonnie Prescott
bprescot@bidmc.harvard.edu
617-667-7306
Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center
15-Feb-2005


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