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Blood Test Helps Spot Good Cancer Drugs

Counting a type of cell allows researchers to gauge effectiveness

FRIDAY, Sept. 15, 2006 (HealthDay News) -- Researchers may be able to determine the effectiveness of anti-angiogenic cancer drugs by measuring levels of a type of blood cell.

Anti-angiogenic drugs work by killing or cutting off the supply of "endothelial" cells that line the blood vessels that feed cancerous tumors.

"For a cancer to survive, grow and spread, a tumor needs to make more endothelial cells and construct new blood vessels to provide oxygen and other nutrients," study author Haiqing Li, of the U.S. National Cancer Institute, said in a prepared statement.

Since anti-angiogenic drugs work more slowly than other treatments such as chemotherapy, researchers have been looking for a detectable "biomarker" that might indicate whether the drug is working. The number of endothelial cells in the bloodstream may be just the biomarker they were looking for.

The study, which was presented this week at the American Association for Cancer Research's first meeting on Molecular Diagnostics in Cancer Therapeutic Development, found that mice implanted with human prostate cancer cells and received anti-angiogenic drugs also experienced increases in the levels of circulating endothelial cells.

Furthermore, looking at levels of endothelial cells, it appeared that anti-angiogenic drugs enhance the ability of chemotherapy to kill endothelial cells in the tumor's blood supply.

"We are in the process of testing whether this biomarker is exclusive for anti-angiogenic therapy," Li said. "Hopefully, the knowledge we learn pre-clinically will be translated into a useful biomarker for patients."

More information

The National Cancer Institute has more about cancer treatment.

SOURCE: American Association for Cancer Research, news release, Sept. 15, 2006
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