Background: Effective vascular normalisation following vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) inhibition is associated with endothelial cell regression leaving empty basement membrane sleeves (BMS). These long-lived BMS permit the rapid regrowth of tumour vasculature upon treatment cessation and promote resistance to VEGF-targeting drugs. Previous attempts at removing BMS have failed. Angiopoietin-2 (Ang2) is a vascular destabilizing factor that antagonises normalisation. We hypothesised that Ang2 inhibition could permit vascular normalisation at significantly reduced doses of VEGF inhibition, avoiding excessive vessel regression and the formation of empty BMS.
Methods: Mice xenografted with human colorectal cancer cells (LS174T) were treated with low (0.5 mg kg(-1)) or high (5 mg kg(-1)) doses of the VEGF-targeting antibody bevacizumab with or without an Ang2 blocking peptibody L1-10. Tumour growth, BMS formation and normalisation parameters were examined including vessel density, pericyte coverage, adherence junctions, leakiness, perfusion, hypoxia and proliferation.
Results: Dual targeting of VEGF and Ang2 achieved effective normalisation at only one-tenth of the dose required with bevacizumab alone. Pericyte coverage, vascular integrity, adherence junctions and perfusion as prerequisites for improved access of chemotherapy were improved without inducing empty BMS that facilitate rapid vascular regrowth.
Conclusions: Dual targeting of VEGF and Ang2 can potentiate the effectiveness of VEGF inhibitors and avoid the formation of empty BMS.