New Developments in Angiogenic Therapy Emerging from Oxford

Angiogenesis, the growth of new blood vessels, is important in the healthy body for healing wounds and, in females, for the monthly reproductive cycle and during pregnancy. It is controlled in the body through the use of the body’s own angiogenesis inhibitors and stimulators. In certain diseases the body is unable to control blood vessel growth. In diseases such as cancer, diabetic blindness and psoriasis, excessive angiogenesis is occurring; and in diseases such as coronary artery disease and stroke insufficient angiogenesis is the problem.

A novel anti-angiogenic agent

Researchers in the Cancer Research UK Molecular Oncology Laboratory at Oxford University have now identified a new inhibitor of endothelial cell proliferation with possible applications in the treatment of those disorders listed above which are characterised by excessive angiogenesis.

For example, solid cancer tumours are often characterised as being angiogenic, i.e. having an increased blood supply. One promising new treatment for solid tumours proposes to cut off the tumour’s blood supply with subsequent tumour shrinkage. Endothelial cells that line normal blood vessels are usually quiescent while those within tumour blood vessels are proliferating. Anti-angiogenic agents that can selectively inhibit proliferating endothelial cells or cytotoxic agents that can be delivered to the tumour vasculature have huge potential for the treatment of solid tumours.

Oxford, Imperial College and Cancer Research UK scientists, led by Professor Adrian Harris, have now identified a new agent for solving this problem. An anti-angiogenic peptide has been isolated and characterised. This peptide is a new member of the family of anti-angiogenic molecules that includes angiostatin which have for some years been of great interest to the pharmaceutical community. It has been shown in experiments to be an effective inhibitor of endothelial cell proliferation.

A new lead in the fight against Coronary Artery Disease

Alternatively, it has been found that the antibody to the peptide is effective in promoting the proliferation of endothelial cells and is thus a potential angiogenic agent for the treatment of disorders such as coronary artery disease. Angiogenic therapy can alleviate coronary artery disease by stimulating new vessel growth and returning blood flow to the heart, through the delivery of angiogenic proteins or their genes to this organ. Endothelial cells that line blood vessels are the initial targets for promoting new vessel growth. Therefore new biological agents that can stimulate endothelial cell growth, such as this antibody, are important candidates for angiogenic therapy.

Isis Innovation, Oxford University’s technology transfer company, holds the patent application for this project and is actively seeking partners for the licensing and commercial development of these technologies.

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