Angiogenesis, the generation of new capillaries through a process of pre-existing microvessel sprouting, is under stringent control and normally occurs only during embryonic and post-embryonic development, reproductive cycle, and wound repair. However, in many pathological conditions (solid tumor progression, metastasis, diabetic retinopathy, hemangioma, arthritis, psoriasis and atherosclerosis among others), the disease appears to be associated with persistent upregulated angiogenesis. The development of specific anti-angiogenic agents arises as an attractive therapeutic approach for the treatment of cancer and other angiogenesis-dependent diseases. The formation of new blood vessels is a complex multi-step process. Endothelial cells resting in the parent vessels are activated by an angiogenic signal and stimulated to synthesize and release degradative enzymes allowing endothelial cells to migrate, proliferate and finally differentiate to give rise to capillary tubules. Any of these steps may be a potential target for pharmacological intervention. In spite of the disappointing results obtained initially in clinical trials with anti-angiogenic drugs, recent reports with positive results in phases II and III trials encourage expectations in their therapeutic potential. This review discusses the current approaches for the discovery of new compounds that inhibit angiogenesis, with emphasis on the clinical developmental status of anti-angiogenic drugs.
Copyright 2006 Wiley Periodicals, Inc.