Stopping Cancer's Blood Supply
When cancer reaches a certain point, it some-how learns how to make its own blood supply. The blood nourishes the tumor, and the blood vessels help pave the way for future growth. This process is called angiogenesis.Treatment designed to fight it - to curb the blood vessel growth, and keep the cance rfrom spreading - is called antiangiogenic therapy.
In prostate cancer, angiogenesis is an issue with advanced disease that has defied hormonal therapy. For antiangiogenic therapy to be successful, scientists need to understand more about how prostate cancer cells make these new blood vessels, says Dmitri Artemov, Ph.D., assistant professor of radiology, who has been named the Beth W. and A. Ross Myers scholar from The Patrick C.Walsh Prostate Cancer Research Fund to learn more about this process.
"There is evidence that tumor blood capillaries do not simply grow from existing blood vessels," Artemov says. Instead, the growing cancer may somehow attract formative cells from the bone marrow, called endothelial precursor, or progenitor, cells to join its band wagon. "These cells can divide and change their shape and function to become new endothelial cells, which line the newly formed tumor blood vessels." Because they're important in laying down the cancer-nourishing blood vessels, these cells are also an important target of future cancer - fighting drugs, he adds.
Artemov is hoping to develop a new way to see these progenitor cells, using MRI scans and special contrast agents specifically designed to target them. Then he hopes to watch these cells in action, as they join growing prostate cancers in animal models- and to see how they are affected by various antiangiogenic drugs. The results of this study, he believes, will lead to better angiogenesis-fighting drugs, and better control of prostate cancer.