Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), VEGF receptors and their inhibitors for antiangiogenic tumor therapy

Biol Pharm Bull. 2011;34(12):1785-8. doi: 10.1248/bpb.34.1785.


Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors (VEGFRs) have crucial roles in both physiological and pathological angiogenesis. The VEGF family consists of VEGF-A (generally called VEGF), VEGF-B, VEGF-C, VEGF-D, and placental growth factor (PlGF). These peptides show different affinities for VEGFR subtypes. VEGFR exists as three subtypes, VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2, and VEGFR-3, and is structurally related to platelet-derived growth factor receptors. All subtypes possess seven immunoglobulin-like domains in the extracellular region and a tyrosine kinase domain in the intracellular region. VEGF-A activates VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, whereas VEGF-B and PlGF bind to only VEFGR-1. VEGF-C and VEGF-D only bind to VEGFR-3. VEGFR-1 (fms-like tyrosine kinase-1, Flt-1) negatively regulates embryonic vasculogenesis and is involved in tumor angiogenesis via activation of monocytes and macrophages. VEGFR-2 (KDR in humans or Flk-1 in mice) is predominantly responsible for both embryonic vasculogenesis and tumor angiogenesis. In contrast, VEGFR-3 (Flt-4) regulates lymphangiogenesis. Consequently, VEGF-A and VEGFR-2 are currently the main targets for antiangiogenic therapy. Bevacizumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody against VEGF-A, and aflibercept (VEGF-Trap) is a soluble fusion protein of the extracelluar domain of VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 and the Fc region of immunoglobulin G (IgG). They neutralize VEGF-A, resulting in prevention of tumor angiogenesis. VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as sunitinib and sorafenib are also effective in antiangiogenic tumor therapy by inhibiting VEGFR signaling. Anti-VEGF drugs are a promising therapy for cancer patients.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors / therapeutic use*
  • Animals
  • Humans
  • Molecular Targeted Therapy
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy*
  • Neoplasms / metabolism
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor / metabolism
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / antagonists & inhibitors*
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A / metabolism


  • Angiogenesis Inhibitors
  • Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor A
  • Receptors, Vascular Endothelial Growth Factor