Tetrathiomolybdate (TM) is a novel anticopper agent under development for use in Wilsons disease. It acts by forming a stable tripartite complex with serum albumin and copper, rendering the complexed copper unavailable for cellular uptake. TM is a very potent anticopper agent and has an excellent safety profile. It has been shown that normal copper levels are required for optimal angiogenesis. Based on this background, we decided to evaluate TM as an anticancer agent. TM treatment of Her/2neu mice, genetically programmed to develop breast cancer, completely prevented the development of visible mammary cancers, although avascular microscopic clusters of cancer cells were present in the breasts of TM treated animals. Controls developed grossly visible tumors. TM was able to strongly inhibit tumor growth in six other rodent models. In a phase 1/2 clinical trial of advanced and metastatic cancers, freedom from progression averaged 11 months, and some individual results were quite dramatic. Eight phase 2 studies of specific cancers have been launched. TMs hypothesized mechanism of action is inhibition of angiogenic cytokines. Unlike other current approaches to antiangiogenic therapy which target single agents, we hypothesize that TM inhibits multiple angiogenic cytokines. Part of this effect appears to stem from inhibition of nuclear factor kappa B (NFKB), which in turn controls transcription of many angiogenic and other cytokines. However, there are probably multiple mechanisms, in that some angiogenic cytokines appear to have separate mechanisms of copper dependence. The inhibition of multiple angiogenic cytokines gives TM the potential to be a more global inhibitor of angiogenesis.
Keywords: tetrathiomolybdate, copper, cancer, angiogenesis, vascular endothelial growth factor, copper deficiency, wilsons disease
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