Angiogenesis, the physiological process of sprouting of new blood vessels from pre-existing ones, is a key biological feature of almost all cancers. Among the multitude of factors driving tumor angiogenesis, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is the most potent, exerting myriad effects on vascular pruning and sprouting, permeability, network formation, proliferation, and cell death. Despite the initial unimpressive clinical performance of anti-VEGF antibody (bevacizumab) as cancer monotherapy, clear improvements in clinical outcomes following combination bevacizumab and chemotherapy regimens and multi-targeted VEGF receptor tyrosine kinase inhibitors (sorafenib and sunitinib) in select tumor types have established VEGF-targeted agents as an effective means of controlling cancer growth. Prolongation of overall survival and cure with these agents, however, remains elusive. Moreover, recent data has revealed key differences in the therapeutic and biological tumor response to antibody versus receptor kinase VEGF inhibitors and suggested, at least pre-clinically, that VEGF blockade in certain circumstances may actually promote more aggressive tumor growth. Given the diverse mechanisms and potentially opposing roles of VEGF neutralization in cancer biology, identification of novel biomarkers predictive of in vivo angiogenic responses may hold the key to optimizing therapeutic outcomes of anti-VEGF therapy in future cancer patients.
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