MD Anderson team explores a combination approach against cancer metastasis

Researchers at The University of Texas MD Anderson Cancer Center say they've devised a new strategy for attacking breast cancer tumors before they metastasize.

A study led by Valerie LeBleu found that by targeting blood vessels called pericytes and combining that with observations on cellular signaling by vascular growth factors called angiopoietin-2 (ANG2), they may be able to rein in the spread of breast cancer tumor growth into the lungs.

Pericytes wrap around capillary cells, making them a tool for regulating blood flow needed for tumor growth. And it seems natural to combine that with an approach that targets angiopoietins, which signal for the growth of arteries and veins.

"Our study showed that angipoietin signaling is a key metastasis promoting pathway associated with abnormal tumor blood vessels with poor pericytes coverage," said LeBleu. "When combined with pericyte loss during the late phases of tumor progression, it is possible to reduce both primary tumor growth and metastatic disease."

And the investigators got some confirmation in a mouse model study.

"Targeting of ANG2 signaling in tumors with abnormal blood vessels with low pericyte coverage appeared to restore vascular stability and decreased tumor growth and metastasis in lung cancer mouse models," said LeBleu. "We also found that ANG2 was tied to poor outcome in patients with breast cancer. These results emphasize the potential for therapies targeting in advanced tumors with poor quality blood vessels."

- here's the release