Scientists find how tumour cells are fed

Updated: Aug 08, 2011, 00:00 AM IST

Washington: For the first time, scientists have discovered how tumour cells are fed and that their growth can also be slowed by cutting down the blood supply, a finding they say could lead to new class of cancer therapies.

A team of researchers from Austria and Hungary found that tumours can obtain sufficient blood supply from alternative vascularisation (or the formation of blood vessels) to grow without capillary sprouting -- known as the key mode of new vessel formation in cancer.

The findings, published in The American Journal of Pathology, supported the notion that inhibition of just a single tumour vascularisation mechanism can trigger alternative ones.

"The central role of capillary sprouting in tumour vascularisation makes it an attractive target for anticancer therapy. Our observations suggest, however, that targeting just this mode of blood vessel formation may not be sufficient to result in a significant antitumor effect," commented lead researchers Sandor Paku, of Semmelweis University in Budapest, and Balazs Dome of Medical University of Vienna.

For their study, the team used electron and confocal microscopy to examine tumour tissue in mice in which malignant tumour cells had been introduced.

They proposed a novel mechanism for the development of tissue pillars -- the most characteristic feature of intussusceptive angiogenesis (the process involving the growth of new blood vessels from pre-existing vessels) in which a vessel folds into itself to form two vessels.

Moreover, they demonstrated a significant increase in pillar formation after treatment with the angiogenesis inhibitor vatalanib.

Prior to this study, the mechanism of pillar formation had not been fully understood.