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Blocking Methylation May Curb Cancer Growth

Update Date: Nov 29, 2013 11:27 AM EST

Scientists have discovered a new mechanism of a signaling protein and its receptor that may help block the growth of new blood vessels and cancer development.

Researcher explain that angiogenesis, or the formation of new blood vessels, can lead to the onset of progression of several diseases like cancer and age-related macular degeneration.

New research reveals that a biochemical process called methylation can lead to angiogenesis. Researcher explain that methylation, which can regulate gene expression, also influences vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is a signaling protein produced by damaged cells.

Researchers explain that VEGF binds to one of its receptors VEGFR-2, located on the surface of blood vessel cells. Afterwards, it sends a biochemical signal to the inside of the blood vessel cell to initiate angiogenesis.

While there are currently some FDA-approved medications that target this process, researchers note that these drugs are limited by insufficient efficacy and the development of resistance.

The latest study also showed that methylation, which also affects VEGFR-2, can lead to angiogenesis. In the study, researchers were able to disrupt the methylation process of VEGFR-2 and subsequently block angiogenesis and tumor growth.

"The study points to the methylation of VEGFR-2 as an exciting, yet unexplored drug target for cancer and ocular angiogenesis, ushering in a new paradigm in anti-angiogenesis therapy," senior author Nader Rahimi, PhD, associate professor of pathology at Boston University School of Medicine said in a news release.

The findings are published in the journal Science Signaling.

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