Tumor-associated angiogenesis: mechanisms, clinical implications, and therapeutic strategies

Semin Oncol. 1997 Apr;24(2):203-18.


Compelling data implicate angiogenesis and tumor-associated neovascularization as a central pathogenic step in the process of tumor growth, invasion, and metastasis. These complex processes involve multiple steps and pathways dependent on the local balance between positive and negative regulatory factors, as well as interactions among the tumor, its vasculature, and the surrounding extracellular tissue matrix. A tumor remains in a dormant state, the cellular proliferation rate balanced by the apoptotic rate, unable to grow in size beyond a few millimeters in the absence of the acquired angiogenic phenotype. The mechanism by which tumors switch to the angiogenic phenotype is unknown. Therapeutic agents and strategies are being devised either to interrupt or inhibit one or more of the pathogenic steps involved in the process of tumor neovascularization or to directly target and destroy the tumor vasculature. Therapies affecting an end target or pathway that cannot be circumvented by alternate mechanisms may significantly enhance efficacy and broaden applicability. These approaches may result in small, avascular tumors maintained in a dormant state or, perhaps in combination with cytotoxic therapies, they may potentiate shrinkage of tumors to, and maintain them, in a dormant state. As more powerful antiangiogenic agents are developed, perhaps even these dormant microscopic foci may be eradicated. Antiangiogenesis agents and strategies differ from the usual cancer therapeutic approaches; therefore, investigators must devise new paradigms for the clinical development of agents that may only have a static effect on tumors and require prolonged, chronic administration. Methods to assess the in vivo biologic activity of these compounds in patients are needed. Ultimately, antiangiogenic therapy may provide an additional novel cancer treatment suitable for combination with standard therapies.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents / antagonists & inhibitors
  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents / physiology
  • Animals
  • Antineoplastic Agents / pharmacology*
  • Drugs, Investigational*
  • Humans
  • Neoplasm Invasiveness
  • Neoplasm Metastasis
  • Neoplasms / blood supply*
  • Neoplasms / drug therapy
  • Neoplasms / pathology
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / drug therapy
  • Neovascularization, Pathologic* / physiopathology
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / drug effects
  • Receptors, Growth Factor / physiology


  • Angiogenesis Inducing Agents
  • Antineoplastic Agents
  • Drugs, Investigational
  • Receptors, Growth Factor