Tumours need blood vessels to get the nutrients and oxygen they need to survive and grow. The growth of new blood vessels is called angiogenesis. Anti-angiogenesis drugs try to starve a tumour by stopping the development of new blood vessels.
Anti-angiogenesis drugs work in different ways to stop new blood vessels from developing.
Growth factors are substances that control cell growth. One of the main growth factors involved in making blood vessels is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF). VEGF attaches to receptors on a cell’s surface and tells the cell to grow and make more blood vessels. Some cancer cells make too much VEGF. Blocking VEGF from attaching to the cell stops the development of more blood vessels.
Bevacizumab (Avastin) is an example of a drug that blocks VEGF. Bevacizumab is given directly into a vein (intravenously, or IV injection).
Once a receptor on a cell’s surface is triggered, other signals are sent inside the cell to tell it to grow blood vessels. Drugs that block the signalling process inside a cell are called cancer growth inhibitors.
Sunitinib (Sutent) is an example of a drug that blocks the signals inside cancer cells that trigger blood vessel growth. Sunitinib is taken by mouth (orally).
Some drugs block the development of blood vessels by affecting the chemicals that cells use to signal each other.
Thalidomide (Thalomid) is an example of a drug that affects signals between cells. Thalidomide is taken by mouth.
For more detailed information on specific drugs, go to sources of drug information.