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Drugs that block cancer blood vessel growth (anti angiogenics)

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This page tells you about anti angiogenesis treatments (angiogenesis inhibitors). These are a type of biological therapy. There is information about

 

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Cancer treatments that block blood vessel growth

A cancer needs a blood supply to bring food and oxygen and remove waste products. When it has reached 1 to 2mm across, it needs to grow its own blood vessels so that it can continue to get bigger. The growth of new blood vessels is called angiogenesis. Anti angiogenic drugs are biological therapies that stop tumours from growing their own blood vessels. This is a quite a new way of treating cancers. Researchers are still learning how best to use these treatments.

Drugs can stop the growth of blood vessels in different ways such as:

  • Blocking growth factors from reaching cancer cells – one of the main proteins involved in making blood vessels is a growth factor called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). Some cancers make too much of this protein. Blocking VEGF stops the cell making new blood vessels
  • Blocking signalling within the cell – signals within the cell can make blood vessels grow. Drugs that block these signals are called cancer growth blockers
  • Blocking signals between cells – cells also use chemicals to signal to each other to grow. Some drugs can block these chemicals. Researchers are looking into exactly how this works

Each drug has different side effects. You can look up the name of your drug in our cancer drug section to find out about the side effects you may have.

 

What anti angiogenesis treatment is

A cancer needs a good blood supply to bring food and oxygen and remove waste products. When it has reached 1 to 2mm across, a tumour needs to grow its own blood vessels in order to continue to get bigger. Some cancer cells make a protein called vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). The VEGF protein attaches to receptors on cells that line the walls of blood vessels within the tumour. The cells are called endothelial cells. This triggers the blood vessels to grow so the cancer can then grow.

Angiogenesis means the growth of new blood vessels. If we can stop cancers from growing blood vessels we can slow the growth of the cancer or sometimes shrink it. Anti angiogenic drugs are treatments that stop tumours from growing their own blood vessels.

 

Types of anti angiogenesis treatment

There are different types of drugs that block blood vessel growth, including

Drugs that block blood vessel growth factor

Some drugs block vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) from attaching to the receptors on the cells that line the blood vessels. This stops the blood vessels from growing.

A drug that blocks VEGF is bevacizumab (Avastin). It is also a monoclonal antibody.

Drugs that block signalling within the cell

Some drugs stop the VEGF receptors from sending growth signals into the blood vessel cells. These treatments are also called cancer growth blockers or tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs).

Sunitinib (Sutent) is a type of TKI that blocks the growth signals inside blood vessel cells. It is used to treat kidney cancer and a rare type of stomach cancer called gastrointestinal stromal tumour (GIST). 

Drugs that affect signals between cells

Some drugs act on the chemicals that cells use to signal to each other to grow. This can block the formation of blood vessels. Drugs that works in this way include thalidomide and lenalidomide (Revlimid).

 

Side effects of anti angiogenesis treatment

Each drug has different side effects. You can look up the name of your drug in our cancer drug section to find out about the side effects you may have.

 

More information about anti angiogenesis drugs

To find trials using anti angiogenesis treatment go to our clinical trials database and type 'angiogenesis' into the search box.

There is detailed information about how a cancer gets its blood supply in the about cancer section.

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Updated: 27 November 2014