Angiogenesis is a process by which new blood vessels are formed. Some cancerous tumors are very efficient at creating new blood vessels, which increases blood supply to the tumor and allows it to grow.
Cancer cells initiate angiogenesis by sending signals to nearby tissue and activating proteins that foster blood vessel growth. As researchers gained a better understanding of this process, they have developed several drugs that inhibit angiogenesis and short-circuit cancer development.
Blood vessels feed tumors the nutrients and oxygen they require to thrive and spread, so researchers also are investigating whether a tumor’s established blood vessel network can be made to fight the cancer.
A number of angiogenesis inhibitors have been approved by the Food and Drug Administration and are currently being used to treat cancer:
- Bevacizumab (Avastin®): brain tumors and cancers of the breast, colon, kidney, lung and rectum
- Everolimus (Afinitor®): kidney cancer and neuroendocrine tumors
- Pazopanib (Votrient®): kidney cancer
- Sorafenib (Nexavar®): liver cancer and kidney cancer
- Sunitinib (Sutent®): kidney cancer and neuroendocrine tumors