Trans-Institute Angiogenesis Research Program Launched
In February, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) approved bevacizumab (Avastin) as a first-line treatment for patients with metastatic colorectal cancer. The approval marked the arrival of an intervention in which the primary mechanism of action is angiogenesis inhibition.
We now can unequivocally say that angiogenesis is not only a critical factor for cancer, but for a host of other diseases. Control and promotion of new blood vessel growth may offer important benefits in revascularization of ischemic tissue, improving diabetic wound healing, and many other conditions. The potential for angiogenesis research to improve so many lives underlies the formation earlier this year of the NIH Trans-Institute Angiogenesis Research Program (TARP). The overarching goal is that a multidisciplinary approach to angiogenesis research will accelerate the discovery of new interventions for a variety of diseases and conditions.
TARP was conceived following a visit to NCI by the leadership of the Juvenile Diabetes Research Foundation (JDRF). It quickly grew to include scientists and clinicians from the JDRF; our two institutes; National Eye Institute; National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke; and National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute. Last week the group hosted a two-day workshop that brought together international leaders (including those from industry) representing different angiogenesis research disciplines.
The workshop provided a forum to examine the state of the science in angiogenesis research as it relates to a variety of pathologic disease states; determine areas of need and overlap among the various disciplines studying angiogenesis; discuss what research could be conducted and how; and discuss novel models, systems, and core resources applicable to or needed by the community. An animal study recently released on the Nature Medicine Web site is an excellent example of what we believe to be TARP's potential. In the study, researchers from M.D. Anderson Cancer Center and Baylor College of Medicine applied their knowledge on angiogenesis' role in tumor formation to develop a novel method for tackling obesity. Just as tumors require blood vessels, so do cells in adipose tissue. A protein specifically expressed in the vasculature of white fat tissue was used to target a peptide that causes cell death to that tissue. The method effectively ablated the adipose tissue and yielded rapid weight loss in obese mice without any detectable adverse effects.
The TARP initiative is still in the formative stages, but our intention is to move quickly. NIH representatives to TARP will meet this week to produce an executive summary of the workshop's major themes and develop a proposed staged implementation plan to move the program forward. We hope to include representatives from additional institutes because vasculogenesis is an important physiologic process in all developmental stages and pathophysiologic processes of every tissue.
The formation of TARP is an obvious and needed step. Cancer researchers can learn from diabetes researchers' work on angiogenesis and vice versa. The same is true for nearly any angiogenesis research - advances in one disease area may fuel advances in others. Our goal with this initiative is simple: to share, communicate, and make the most of the resources available to us.
Dr. Andrew C. von Eschenbach