Angiogenesis, the formation of new blood vessels, is a process controlled by certain chemicals produced in the body. Although this may help in normal wound healing, cancer can grow when these new blood vessels are created. Angiogenesis provides cancer cells with oxygen and nutrients. This allows the cancer cells to multiply, invade nearby tissue, and spread to other areas of the body (metastasize).
A chemical that interferes with the signals to form new blood vessels is referred to as an angiogenesis inhibitor.
Sometimes called antiangiogenic therapy, this treatment may prevent the growth of cancer by blocking the formation of new blood vessels. In some animal case studies, angiogenesis inhibitors have caused cancer to shrink and resolve completely.
Thalidomide has been identified as having mild activity as an angiogenesis inhibitor in myelodysplasic syndrome and sometimes in kidney cancer. A newer version of this medication is lenalidomide (Revlamid), which has fewer side effects than thalidomide.
Another medication, bevacizumab (Avastin®), has been approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to aid in the treatment of colorectal cancer. It is being studied in other types of cancer, as are other medications.
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