Vascular targeting agents (VTAs) for the treatment of cancer are designed to cause a rapid and selective shutdown of the blood vessels of tumors. Unlike antiangiogenic drugs that inhibit the formation of new vessels, VTAs occlude the pre-existing blood vessels of tumors to cause tumor cell death from ischemia and extensive hemorrhagic necrosis. Tumor selectivity is conferred by differences in the pathophysiology of tumor versus normal tissue vessels (e.g., increased proliferation and fragility, and up-regulated proteins). VTAs can kill indirectly the tumor cells that are resistant to conventional antiproliferative cancer therapies, i.e., cells in areas distant from blood vessels where drug penetration is poor, and hypoxia can lead to radiation and drug resistance. VTAs are expected to show the greatest therapeutic benefit as part of combined modality regimens. Preclinical studies have shown VTA-induced enhancement of the effects of conventional chemotherapeutic agents, radiation, hyperthermia, radioimmunotherapy, and antiangiogenic agents. There are broadly two types of VTAs, small molecules and ligand-based, which are grouped together, because they both cause acute vascular shutdown in tumors leading to massive necrosis. The small molecules include the microtubulin destabilizing drugs, combretastatin A-4 disodium phosphate, ZD6126, AVE8062, and Oxi 4503, and the flavonoid, DMXAA. Ligand-based VTAs use antibodies, peptides, or growth factors that bind selectively to tumor versus normal vessels to target tumors with agents that occlude blood vessels. The ligand-based VTAs include fusion proteins (e.g., vascular endothelial growth factor linked to the plant toxin gelonin), immunotoxins (e.g., monoclonal antibodies to endoglin conjugated to ricin A), antibodies linked to cytokines, liposomally encapsulated drugs, and gene therapy approaches. Combretastatin A-4 disodium phosphate, ZD6126, AVE8062, and DMXAA are undergoing clinical evaluation. Phase I monotherapy studies have shown that the agents are tolerated with some demonstration of single agent efficacy. Because efficacy is expected when the agents are used with conventional chemotherapeutic drugs or radiation, the results of Phase II combination studies are eagerly awaited.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cancer Research