Cancer therapies which cut off blood supplies to dangerous tumours could be an effective new way of helping cancer patients, a study has found.
Cutting out the blood supply to tumours, in combination with existing chemotherapeutic drugs, could stop tumours from growing. The ground-breaking research carried out on mice found tumour growth is better-reduced when the Beta3-integrin protein is targeted together with widely used cancer medication. The study, led by researchers at the University of East Anglia (UEA), was published today in the science journal EMBO Reports.
Lead researcher Dr Stephen Robinson, from UEA’s School of Biological Sciences, said: “Tumours must recruit their own blood supply to grow beyond a very small size and this process is called angiogenesis.
“Anti-angiogenic drugs stop tumours from growing their own blood vessels, and this in turn can slow the growth of the cancer, or shrink it.
“Targeting angiogenesis is therefore seen as crucial in many anti-cancer strategies.
“However many anti-angiogenetic therapies target proteins that help the functioning of a patient’s normal blood supply – and this can lead to nasty side effects including haemorrhage, strokes, high blood pressure, and fatigue.”
The researchers now hope to re-energise medical interest in microtubule-targeting agents (MTAs) – protein structures which help cells move and divide and are commonly used in chemotherapy. The scientists found the use of MTAs together with Beta3-integrin targeting is a more successful combo than Beta3-integrin targeting used alone.
Dr Robinson said: "This protein, Beta3-integrin, has been the focus of drug design over the last two decades because its expression is vastly increased in endothelial cells during blood vessel recruitment to tumours.
“We found that targeting the protein Beta3-integrin in combination with the use of microtubule-targeting agents (MTAs) could be a good way to stop tumours recruiting a blood supply to grow.
“This is really important because MTAs are already in clinic and commonly used as chemotherapies such as paclitaxel in cancer patients.
“Meanwhile Beta3-integrin inhibitors have been at the centre of cancer drug design for over 20 years and are well-tolerated in clinical trials.”
“We hope that this research could revitalise interest in this sort of therapy and lead to a re-purposing of MTAs as anti-angiogenic inhibitors, in combination with targeting Beta3 integrin.”
According to Cancer Research UK, more than 360,000 new cancer cases are diagnosed every year, based on 2013 to 2015 figures. In 2015 alone, around 183,000 men were diagnosed with concern and around 177,000 women were diagnosed. Breast, prostate, lung and bowel cancers are the most commonly diagnosed cancers. 2016 statistics reveal around 450 people die every day from cancer – more than quarter of all deaths in the country.
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