Investigators raise doubts about VEGF as a driver behind prostate cancer

Finding the drivers behind cancer and then coming up with therapies that can block them has been an effective strategy for drug developers over the years. But a group of investigators say they put one theory related to prostate cancer to the test, and came up with some data indicating it's a dead end for developers as well as doctors looking for the right therapeutic strategy for patients.

The target was VEGF, which is overexpressed in many cancers. A solid cancer that expresses VEGF is able to continue to grow and metastasize by stimulating a process known as angiogenesis. But investigators at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital in Philadelphia say that after reviewing a large dataset for advanced prostate cancer patients, they concluded that VEGF was not a good biomarker for determining the right treatment method.

The outcome results for two groups of men with prostate cancer which received either radiation therapy or radiation therapy along with androgen deprivation treatment and a neoadjuvant were studied by investigators. And they say they could detect no correlation between their level of VEGF expression and overall survival, progression-free survival or metastasis.

"VEGF in this disease does not have a driver role," said senior author Adam Dicker. "The clinical trials using VEGF inhibitors did not have clinical benefit, so this study confirms that this is not a path forward to tackling this disease." 

"This study is among the larger studies of VEGF expression in prostate cancer, and we urge the research community to avoid the misrepresentation of the literature with a lack of publication of even well-designed large negative studies, a publication bias against negative trials, as the current literature in this area appears to be predominated by only small exploratory positive trials, with a lack of subsequent confirmation with larger, longer prospectively designed trials," the authors write.

- here's the press release

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