Researchers find gene that can prevent the spread of cancer

One of the body’s genes, receptor VEGFR-3, prevents the growth of both lymphatic vessels and the blood vessels in cancerous tumours.

Biomedicum Helsinki

Kari Alatalo’s research group has discovered that a certain growth factor receptor, VEGFR-3, influences the formation of blood vessels in cancerous tumours. Thus, it can stop the spread of cancer.

“Cancerous tumours cannot grow without the oxygen and nutrients carried by the blood vessels. The VEGFR-3 antibody reduces the number of blood vessels and slows their growth,” explains Tuomas Tammela, head researcher in the project.

Earlier, the research group observed that the same gene blocks the growth of lymphatic vessels around the tumour. The lymphatic vessels are an important route for the spread of tumours.

“The latest research results confirmed that the receptor blocks the growth of both blood vessels and lymphatic vessels. This can help us deal with the spread of cancer in a completely new way,” sums up Tammela.

The results have accelerated the development of a new type of cancer drug.

The antibody has been licenced by American pharmaceutical company ImClone, and the results of the first patient trials should be available in 2010.

Other organisations involved in the drug development are the University of Helsinki and Vegenics Ltd., which is owned by an Australian biotechnology company.

The drug will be available in pharmacies in 5-7 years.

Teksti: Niina Viitanen
Kuva: Ida Pimenoff

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