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What is Anti-Angiogenesis Treatment?

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  • Written By: D. Jeffress
  • Edited By: Jenn Walker
  • Last Modified Date: 26 November 2016
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Anti-angiogenesis treatment is a promising new form of cancer therapy. Specially-designed medications inhibit the growth of new blood vessels inside and leading to cancerous tumors. Without a steady blood supply, tumors stop growing and many cancer cells within the mass eventually die. Several different types of anti-angiogenesis drugs have been approved for the treatment of colorectal, kidney, pancreatic, and lung cancer, and clinical trials are underway to determine the medications' effectiveness against other types of malignancies. Many experts believe that combining anti-angiogenesis treatment with other established treatment methods such as chemotherapy and radiation provides a very hopeful outlook on the battle with cancer.

Most anti-angiogenesis drugs are designed to stop the activity of a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which controls the production and maintenance of blood vessel cells. Many healthy cells in the body possess small amounts of VEGF to aid in wound healing and keep existing blood vessels strong. Some types of cancerous cells, however, produce excessively large quantities of VEGF that prompt fast development of new blood vessels to feed the host tumor. VEGF inhibitor drugs effectively prevent VEGF from giving blood vessel cells instructions to replicate.

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The most popular anti-angiogenesis drug, bevacizumab, works by seeking out VEGF and binding directly to the protein. After a bond is formed, VEGF cannot communicate with receptor sites on blood vessel cells. Another drug, cetuximab, accomplishes the same goal by blocking the receptor site itself instead of combining with a VEGF protein. Ongoing research at biochemical firms, pharmaceutical companies, and hospitals is underway to develop new ways of disrupting VEGF and preventing tumor growth.

The risks of side effects with anti-angiogenesis drugs are low, especially when compared to other cancer treatments. Unlike chemotherapy agents that damage the immune system, anti-angiogenesis medications have very limited negative effects outside of tumors. A patient may experience slow or ineffective wound healing during the course of treatment. Bleeding in the stomach or intestines is possible, especially in people who already have major digestive disorders or bleeding complications. Some patients also experience sudden rises in blood pressure that in rare circumstances can become serious problems.

Clinical trials and actual treatment efforts suggest that anti-angiogenesis drugs work best when they are used in combination with other cancer-fighting therapies. Once a tumor's blood supply is significantly depleted, chemotherapy and radiation may be more effective at shrinking it. With continuing research, professionals hope to integrate anti-angiogenesis into a standard treatment regimen for many different cancers.

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