How is Angiogenesis Important for Health?

Angiogenesis, the growth of new capillary blood vessels in the body, is an important natural process used for healing and reproduction. The body controls angiogenesis by producing a precise balance of growth and inhibitory factors in healthy tissues.

When this balance is disturbed, the result is either too much or too little angiogenesis. Abnormal blood vessel growth, either excessive or insufficient, is now recognized as a “common denominator” underlying many deadly and debilitating conditions, including cancer, skin diseases, age-related blindness, diabetic ulcers, cardiovascular disease, stroke, and many others. The list of diseases that have angiogenesis as an underlying mechanism grows longer every year.

What is Angiogenesis-Based Medicine?

Angiogenesis-Based Medicine — restoring the body’s natural control of angiogenesis — is a wide-ranging approach to fighting disease. By using new medical treatments that either inhibit or stimulate angiogenesis, doctors are prolonging the lives of cancer patients, preventing limb amputations, reversing vision loss, and improving general health.

For example, cancerous tumors release angiogenic growth factor proteins that stimulate blood vessels to grow into the tumor, providing it with oxygen and nutrients. A key mechanism of antiangiogenic therapy interferes with the process of blood vessel growth to literally starve the tumor of its blood supply. A new class of cancer treatments that block angiogenesis are now approved and available to treat cancers of the colon, kidney, lung, breast, liver, brain, ovaries, and thyroid, as well as multiple myeloma, bone gastrointestinal stromal tumors, soft tissue sarcoma, and SEGA tumors. Some older drugs have been rediscovered to block angiogenesis, as well. These are being used to treat angiogenesis-dependent conditions, such as hemangiomas, colon polyps, and precancerous skin lesions.

Therapeutic angiogenesis, in contrast, stimulates angiogenesis where it is required but is lacking. This technique is used to replenish the blood supply to chronic wounds to speed healing, and it prevents unnecessary amputations. New research suggests this approach can also be used to save limbs afflicted with poor circulation, and even oxygen-starved hearts. Therapeutic angiogenesis may even help to regenerate damaged or lost tissues in ways that were previously considered impossible, such as with nerves and brain tissue.