Therapeutic potential of selective cyclooxygenase-2 inhibitors in the management of tumor angiogenesis

Prog Exp Tumor Res. 2003;37:179-92. doi: 10.1159/000071373.


It is clear that COX-2 plays an important role in tumor and endothelial cell biology. Increased expression of COX-2 occurs in multiple cells within the tumor microenvironment that can impact on angiogenesis. COX-2 appears to: (a) play a key role in the release and activity of proangiogenic proteins; (b) result in the production of eicosanoid products TXA2, PGI2, PGE2 that directly stimulate endothelial cell migration and angiogenesis in vivo, and (c) result in enhanced tumor cell, and possibly, vascular endothelial cell survival by upregulation of the antiapoptotic proteins Bcl-2 and/or activation of PI3K-Akt. Selective pharmacologic inhibition of COX-2 represents a viable therapeutic option for the treatment of malignancies. Agents that selectively inhibit COX-2 appear to be safe, and well tolerated suggesting that chronic treatment for angiogenesis inhibition is feasible [107-110]. Because these agents inhibit angiogenesis, they should have at least additive benefit in combination with standard chemotherapy [111] and radiation therapy [24, 112]. In preclinical models, a selective inhibitor of COX-2 was shown to potentiate the beneficial antitumor effects of ionizing radiation with no increase in normal tissue cytotoxicity [113-115]. More recently, metronomic dosing regimens of standard chemotherapeutic agents without extended rest periods were shown to target the microvasculature in experimental animal models and result in significant antitumor activity [116-118]. This antiangiogenic chemotherapy regimen could be enhanced by the concurrent administration of an angiogenesis inhibitor [116-119]. Trials that will evaluate continuous low dose cyclophosphamide in combination with celecoxib are underway in patients with metastatic renal cancer, and non-Hodgkin's lymphoma [120]. Given the safety and tolerability of the selective COX-2 inhibitors, and the potent antiangiogenic properties of these agents, the combination of antiangiogenic chemotherapy with a COX-2 inhibitor warrants clinical evaluation [118, 121, 122]. The effects of selective COX-2 inhibitors on angiogenesis may also be due, in part, to COX-independent mechanisms [123-125]. Several reports have confirmed COX-independent effects of celecoxib, at relatively high concentrations (50 microM), where apoptosis is stimulated in cells that lack both COX-1 and COX-2 [126]. More recently, Song et al. [127] described structural modifications to celecoxib that revealed no association between the COX-2 inhibitory and proapoptotic activities of celecoxib [125]. Some of the COX-independent mechanisms for NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors include activation of protein kinase G, inhibition of NF-kappa B activation, downregulation of the antiapoptotic protein Bcl-XL, inhibition of PPAR delta, and activation of PPAR gamma. One or more of these COX-independent effects could contribute to the antiangiogenic properties of NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors. In order to take advantage of both the COX-dependent and COX-independent benefits of NSAIDs and selective COX-2 inhibitors, will require evaluation of these agents in neoplastic disease settings, using cancer-specific biomarkers. In conclusion, the contribution of COX-2 at multiple points in the angiogenic cascade makes it an ideal target for pharmacologic inhibition. The reported success of selective COX-2 inhibitors in cancer prevention could be related to angiogenesis inhibition [109]. As premalignant lesions progress towards malignancy, there is a switch to the angiogenic phenotype that is subsequently followed by rapid tumor growth [128, 129]. Intervention with angiogenesis inhibitors at this early stage of carcinogenesis has been shown to attenuate tumor growth in transgenic mouse models [130, 131]. The continued dependence on angiogenesis for later stages of tumorigenesis suggests that COX-2 inhibitors also will have clinical utility in the management of advanced cancers.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Animals
  • Apoptosis
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Endothelial Growth Factors / analysis
  • Humans
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins / analysis
  • Isoenzymes / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Lymphokines / analysis
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / etiology
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases
  • Thromboxane A2 / physiology
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors


  • Cyclooxygenase 2 Inhibitors
  • Cyclooxygenase Inhibitors
  • Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Intercellular Signaling Peptides and Proteins
  • Isoenzymes
  • Lymphokines
  • Membrane Proteins
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors
  • Thromboxane A2
  • Cyclooxygenase 2
  • PTGS2 protein, human
  • Prostaglandin-Endoperoxide Synthases