From the discovery of vascular endothelial growth factor to the introduction of avastin in clinical trials - an interview with Napoleone Ferrara by Domenico Ribatti

Int J Dev Biol. 2011;55(4-5):383-8. doi: 10.1387/ijdb.103216dr.


Napoleone Ferrara and his colleagues at Genentech were the first to isolate and clone vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) in 1989. His laboratory has investigated many aspects of VEGF biochemistry and molecular biology. In 1993, Ferrara reported that inhibition of VEGF-induced angiogenesis by specific monoclonal antibodies resulted in dramatic suppression of the growth of a variety of tumors in vivo. These findings provided an important evidence that inhibition of angiogenesis may suppress tumor growth and blocking VEGF action could have therapeutic value for a variety of malignancies. A further development was the design in a rational fashion in 1997 of a humanized anti-VEGF monoclonal antibody (Avastin), now in clinical trials as a treatment for several solid tumors and also outside of cancer, in the treatment of age-related macular degeneration (AMD). Ferrara's work is revolutionizing quality of life for many of the estimated 1.2 million individuals in the US who have wet AMD. Upwards of a million AMD patients worldwide have already received anti-VEGF antibody therapy.

Publication types

  • Historical Article
  • Interview
  • Portrait

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / history
  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use
  • Animals
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / history*
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal / therapeutic use
  • Antibodies, Monoclonal, Humanized
  • Bevacizumab
  • Clinical Trials as Topic / history
  • Cloning, Molecular
  • History, 20th Century
  • History, 21st Century
  • Humans
  • Italy
  • Neoplasms / blood supply
  • Neoplasms / therapy
  • Neovascularization, Physiologic
  • San Francisco
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / genetics
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / history*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / physiology


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