Purpose of review: Targeting the endothelial cells that line tumor infiltrating blood vessels is a new anticancer strategy that has gained widespread support from biologists and clinicians. Here we highlight different approaches currently being used to target tumor endothelium and discuss new avenues for intervention that have been opened through the recent identification of tumor endothelial markers (TEMs).
Recent findings: The ability of Avastin to prolong survival in a Phase III clinical trial of human colorectal cancer has established the validity of the anti-angiogenic approach. However, realization of the full potential of a vascular targeting strategy may require the exploitation of molecules which are highly restricted in expression to tumor endothelium. Here we explore the potential of TEMs as new targets for cancer therapy. Current knowledge of these markers and their relation to other family members in the context of tumor angiogenesis is discussed. In particular, we highlight those molecules which, by virtue of their structure, cell-surface location and expression pattern, appear to hold promise as targets for future drug development. The identification of TEM8 as the anthrax toxin receptor and the successful targeting of this receptor in preclinical tumor models make this molecule a particularly attractive candidate for future vascular targeting studies.
Summary: Technological advances in cellular fractionation and genomics enabled the identification of several markers preferentially expressed on human tumor endothelium. Studies of these TEMs are expected to aid in our understanding of angiogenesis and could lead to the development of new imaging and diagnostic agents for cancer.