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Too Many Blood Vessels—Or Too Few

Some 60 diseases are linked to the excessive or restricted formation of blood vessels. Here is a sampling of research, at various stages, into flipping the angiogenesis switch on or off.

By Anita Slomski // Spring 2006
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Some 60 diseases are linked to the excessive or restricted formation of blood vessels. Here is a sampling of research, at various stages, into flipping the angiogenesis switch on or off.

DISEASE/CONDITION

ROLE OF PRO/ANTIANGIOGENESIS THERAPY

TREATMENT STATUS

Cancer Attempts to block essential growth factors that many cancers need to establish the blood supplies that allow them to grow and proliferate. Approved drugs include Avastin, for colorectal cancer; Endostar (in China) for lung cancer; Iressa, for lung cancer; Velcade, for multiple myeloma; Sorafenib, for kidney cancer.
Wet macular degeneration Halts development of abnormal blood vessels that leak blood and fluid into the eye, causing scarring and loss of vision. Macugen is approved to treat macular degeneration; Lucentis, pending approval; Avastin, being used "off label."
Diabetic retinopathy Could decrease excess growth and restore normal permeability of weak capillaries in danger of rupturing or depositing damaging proteins in the retina. Eventually, Macugen and Lucentis may be tested for treatment of diabetic retinopathy.
Psoriasis Could slow the growth of blood vessels that appear to exacerbate the excessive production of scaly skin, which characterizes psoriasis, and other diseases that involve chronic inflammation. Both MEDI-522 and Curcuminoids C3 Complex, derived from turmeric, are in Phase II trials to inhibit blood vessel formation.
Coronary artery disease and peripheral arterial disease Stimulates collateral blood vessel growth to feed oxygen-starved tissue, the result of coronary arteries narrowed by plaque. In early-stage coronary disease, antiangiogenic therapy might even help prevent plaque growth. In lab studies, endostatin has blocked 85% of atherosclerotic plaque in mice.
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Turning Off Cancer

Cancer

A “new” approach, 40 years in the making, attempts to keep blood vessels from feeding tumors. It’s starting to work.

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