VEGF as a therapeutic target in cancer

Oncology. 2005;69 Suppl 3:11-6. doi: 10.1159/000088479. Epub 2005 Nov 21.


Tumors require nutrients and oxygen in order to grow, and new blood vessels, formed by the process of angiogenesis, provide these substrates. The key mediator of angiogenesis is vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is induced by many characteristics of tumors, most importantly hypoxia. Therefore, VEGF is an appealing target for anticancer therapeutics. In addition, VEGF is easy to access as it circulates in the blood and acts directly on endothelial cells. VEGF-mediated angiogenesis is rare in adult humans (except wound healing and female reproductive cycling), and so targeting the molecule should not affect other physiological processes. Tumor blood vessels, formed under the influence of VEGF, are disorganized, tortuous and leaky with high interstitial pressure, reducing access for chemotherapies. Inhibiting VEGF would reduce the vessel abnormality and increase the permeability of the tumor to chemotherapies. Several approaches to targeting VEGF have been investigated. The most common strategies have been receptor-targeted molecules and VEGF-targeting molecules. The disadvantage of receptor-targeted approaches is that the VEGF receptors also bind different members of the VEGF super-family and affect systems other than angiogenesis. The best-studied and most advanced approach to VEGF inhibition is the humanized monoclonal antibody bevacizumab (Avastin), which is the only anti-angiogenic agent approved for treatment of cancer.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / pharmacology*
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / pharmacology
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Bevacizumab
  • Gene Expression Regulation, Neoplastic / drug effects
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / metabolism*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / metabolism
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / prevention & control
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / drug effects*
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Up-Regulation / drug effects
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Bevacizumab
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor