THURSDAY, Dec. 16, 2004 (HealthDayNews) -- A new pathway that may be useful in regulating angiogenesis -- the way by which new blood vessels are built -- has been identified by Ohio State University researchers.
This finding could help in the development of new methods to deal with a wide range of health problems, including cancer, wound healing, transplantation, and heart and lung disease.
Angiogenesis is a normal, mostly beneficial function. But it can be harmful when, for example, it creates new blood vessels that feed tumors, letting them grow and spread.
The study found it may be possible to manage angiogenesis by using high doses of a naturally occurring growth factor called GM-CSF to stimulate immune system white blood cells called monocytes.
GM-CSF stimulates monocytes to produce soluble receptors for vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a substance secreted by tumors to instruct nearby blood vessels to create links to them.
"When tumors reach a certain size, they need more oxygen and nutrients to continue to grow. New blood vessels play an important role in tumor metastases, and it is the tumor's production of VEGF that is the key driver of new blood vessel formation," senior author Clay Marsh, director of the division of pulmonary, critical care and sleep medicine in the Department of Internal Medicine, said in a prepared statement.
He and his colleagues found that stimulated monocyctes produce soluable VEGF receptors that act like sponges and soak up all the available VEGF. That prevents the tumor's signal to build new blood vessels to feed it from getting through to nearby blood vessels.
"In essence, we think we have found a new way to block angiogenesis," Marsh said.
The study appears in the December issue of Immunity.
The U.S. National Cancer Institute has more about angiogenesis.