Angiogenesis is indispensable for the growth of solid tumors and angiogenic factors are also involved in the progression of hematological malignancies. Targeting the formation of blood vessels is therefore regarded as a promising strategy in cancer therapy. Interestingly, besides demonstration of some beneficial effects of novel anti-angiogenic compounds, recent data on the activity of already available drugs point to their potential application in anti-angiogenic therapy. Among these are the statins, the inhibitors of 3- hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase. Statins are very efficient in the treatment of hypercholesterolemia in cardiovascular disorders; however, their effects are pleiotropic and some are not directly related to the inhibition of cholesterol synthesis. Some reports particularly highlight the proangiogenic effects of statins, which are caused by low, nanomolar concentrations and are regarded as beneficial for the treatment of cardiovascular diseases. On the other hand, the anti-angiogenic activities, observed at micromolar concentrations of statins, may be of special significance for cancer therapy. Those effects are caused by the inhibition of both proliferation and migration and induction of apoptosis in endothelial cells. Moreover, the statin-mediated inhibition of vascular endothelial growth factor synthesis, the major angiogenic mediator, may contribute to the attenuation of angiogenesis. It has been suggested that the anti-cancer effect of statins can be potentially exploited for the cancer therapy. However, several clinical trials aimed at the inhibition of tumor growth by treatment with very high doses of statins did not provide conclusive data. Herein, the reasons for those outcomes are discussed and the rationale for further studies is presented.
Keywords: Vascular endothelial growth factor, 3-hydroxy-3-methylglutaryl-coenzyme A reductase, nitric oxide, heme oxygenase, apoptosis, endothelium, atherosclerosis, hypercholesterolemia
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