Cancer remains one of the major causes of death worldwide. The switch to pathological angiogenesis is a key process in the promotion of cancer and consequently provides several new and promising targets to anticancer therapy. Thus, antagonizing angiogenesis cuts off the tumor's oxygen and nutrition supply. This review focuses on angiogenesis inhibitors as option for cancer treatment. Modes of action, adverse effects, mechanisms of resistance as well as new developments are highlighted.
One approach in angiogenesis inhibition is intermitting the VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) signal pathway with monoclonal antibodies. Bevacizumab is a highly specific recombinant humanized monoclonal IgG antibody targeting VEGF-A. An efficient antitumor therapy demands more specific antibodies that affect other signal molecules besides VEGF-A, which is in the focus of current research.
In addition to antagonizing VEGF, there are also small molecules that inhibit receptor tyrosine kinases (RTKs). Many RTK inhibitors have been described, which exhibit different specificity profiles. The question, whether highly specific antagonists are necessary remains open, because other affected RTKs may also represent growth factor receptors that are essential for tumor growth. Therefore their inhibition may also contribute to anticancer activity.
Secondary plant metabolites represent templates for the development of new small molecules. The identification of new drugs from plants has a long and successful history. There is convincing evidence for the beneficial effect of phytochemicals on cancer-related pathways, particularly with regard to anti-angiogenesis. Plant phenolics are the most important category of phytochemicals, including flavanoids. Prominent phytochemicals affecting different pathways of angiogenesis are green tea polyphenols (epigallocatechin gallate) and soy bean isoflavones (genistein).