Angiogenesis is important in the growth and progression of solid tumours. The main pro-angiogenic factor, namely vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), also known as vascular permeability factor, is a potent angiogenic cytokine that induces mitosis and also regulates the permeability of endothelial cells. The soluble isoform of VEGF is a dimeric glycoprotein of 36-46 kDa, induced by hypoxia and oncogenic mutation and it binds to two specific tyrosinekinase receptors: VEGF-1 (flt-1) and VEGF-2 (KDR/flk1). An increase in VEGF expression in tumour tissue or some blood compartments (i.e. serum or plasma) has been found in solid and haematological malignancies of various origins and is associated with metastasis formation and poor prognosis. Bevacizumab, a recombinant humanised monoclonal antibody developed against VEGF, binds to soluble VEGF, preventing receptor binding and inhibiting endothelial cell proliferation and vessel formation. Pre-clinical and clinical studies have shown that bevacizumab alone or in combination with a cytotoxic agent decreases tumour growth and increases median survival time and time to tumour progression. Bevacizumab is the first anti-angiogenetic treatment approved by the American Food and Drug Administration in the first-line treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer. It has shown preliminary evidence of efficacy for breast, non-small-cell lung, pancreatic, prostate, head and neck and renal cancer as well as haematological malignancies. Common toxicities associated with bevacizumab include hypertension, proteinuria, bleeding episodes and thrombotic events. This review summarises the critical role of VEGF and discusses the data available on bevacizumab, from the humanisation of its parent murine monoclonal antibody (mAb) A.4.6.1 to its use in cancer clinical trials.
Keywords: Angiogenesis, VEGF, angiogenesis inhibitor, monoclonal antibodies targeting VEGF, bevacizumab, pre-clinical studies, clinical trials, cancer
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