Angiogenesis is the forming of new blood vessels. This is controlled by certain chemicals the body makes. It can help in normal wound healing.
But new blood vessels can help cancer grow. New blood vessels near the cancer cells give them oxygen and nutrients. This lets the cancer cells multiply. It lets them grow into nearby tissue. And it lets them spread to other areas of the body (metastasize).
An angiogenesis inhibitor is a chemical. It blocks the signals for the body to form new blood vessels. Scientists have studied these for some kinds of cancer tumors and cells. This is called antiangiogenic therapy.
This treatment may prevent the growth of cancer. It does this by blocking new blood vessels from forming. This can stop cancer from growing more. Or it may reduce the size of a tumor.
There are more than a dozen medicines in the U.S. that can do this. They most often work best when used with chemotherapy (chemo) or immunotherapy. One is called bevacizumab. It’s been approved by the FDA to help treat these types of cancer:
Non-small cell lung cancer
Liver (hepatocellular) carcinoma
Metastatic renal cell cancer
Many chemo medicines kill healthy cells along with cancer cells. But angiogenesis inhibitors only prevent new blood vessels from forming. This means they have different side effects. They are milder than with chemo medicines. But some of the side effects can be serious. They can include:
High blood pressure
Rash or dry, itchy skin
Clots in the arteries that may lead to stroke, heart attack, or decreased heart function
Poor wound healing
Low thyroid hormone levels (hypothyroidism)
Painful swelling of hands and feet (hand-foot syndrome)
Protein in the urine
Angiogenesis inhibitors may affect an unborn baby. They are not advised for people who are pregnant or who may become pregnant.