Simple test predicts ability to grow new blood vessels: Breakthrough in battle against heart disease, diabetes, cancer

HAIFA, Israel, and NEW YORK, N.Y., July 30, 1999 -- Some 14 million people suffer from coronary artery disease in the United States, leading to an oxygen-starved heart, angina and risk of heart attack. The human body is able to grow new blood vessels that compensate for the blocked vessels that cause heart attacks. These new vessels may also feed cancerous tumors and cause blindness in diabetes patients. A study at the Technion-Israel Institute of Technology, published in the August 3 Circulation, describes a simple blood test that can predict a person1s ability to grow such vessels. Armed with this knowledge, doctors can better decide on appropriate treatment.

"There are important implications to our findings in terms of treating heart disease, the leading cause of death in developed countries, as well as on cancer and diabetes," said Dr. Andrew Levy of the Faculty of Medicine at the Technion, who led the study. "Coronary patients whose tests show little potential to generate new vessels could be treated with drugs to increase this potential or treated more aggressively with surgery. Cancer and diabetes patients, on the other hand, whose tests show a high potential, would require more aggressive treatment than patients who show a low potential for new vessel growth." He added that while the implications on heart disease are clear, his team is still studying the implications on cancer and diabetes.

The blood test is being readied for commercial use.

Dr. Levy was one of three researchers who in 1989 identified vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), the protein that triggers blood vessel growth in a process called angiogenesis.

"The Technion study represents a seminal observation," said Dr. Jeff Isner, professor of medicine at Tufts University and chief of vascular medicine and cardiovascular research at St. Elizabeth Medical Center in Boston. "It not only confirms our own studies on VEGF gene therapy as a '

Contact: Martha Molnar
American Society for Technion - Israel Institute of Technology

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