Tumor microvasculature and microenvironment: targets for anti-angiogenesis and normalization

Microvasc Res. Sep-Nov 2007;74(2-3):72-84. doi: 10.1016/j.mvr.2007.05.003. Epub 2007 May 18.


A solid tumor forms an organ-like entity comprised of neoplastic cells and non-transformed host stromal cells embedded in an extracellular matrix. Similar to normal tissues, blood vessels nourish cells residing in tumors. However, unlike normal blood vessels, tumor vasculature has abnormal organization, structure, and function. Tumor vessels are leaky and blood flow is heterogeneous and often compromised. Vascular hyperpermeability and the lack of functional lymphatic vessels inside tumors cause elevation of interstitial fluid pressure in solid tumors. Each of these abnormalities forms a physiological barrier to the delivery of therapeutic agents to tumors. Furthermore, elevated tumor interstitial fluid pressure increases fluid flow from the tumor margin into the peri-tumor area and may facilitate peri-tumor lymphatic hyperplasia and metastasis. Abnormal microcirculation in tumors also leads to a hostile microenvironment characterized by hypoxia and acidosis, which hinder the effectiveness of anti-tumor treatments such as radiation therapy and chemotherapy. In addition, host-tumor interactions regulate expression of pro- and anti-angiogenic factors and hence contribute to their imbalance and resulting pathophysiological characteristics of the tumor. Restoration of pro- and anti-angiogenic balance in tumors may "normalize" tumor vasculature and thus improve its function. Indeed, anti-angiogenic treatments directly targeting angiogenic signaling pathways as well as indirectly modulating angiogenesis show normalization of tumor vasculature and microenvironment at least transiently in both preclinical and clinical settings. Combination of cytotoxic therapy and anti-angiogenic treatment during the vascular normalization exhibits synergistic effect.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic / drug therapy*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors / antagonists & inhibitors*


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factors

Grant support