Anti-cancer drug damages brain vessels

Feb 11, 2008

New research may help explain why an anti-cancer drug causes potentially fatal brain inflammation in certain patients. Scientists at Harvard Medical School mimicked the drug's activity in mice and found that it damaged the cell lining that prevents fluid from leaking from the spinal cord into the brain. The results will be published online on Feb. 11 in the Journal of Experimental Medicine.

The cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) is used to treat advanced bowel cancer in combination with chemotherapy. This drug targets a protein called VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) that stimulates blood vessel growth. Avastin inhibits the growth of tumors by cutting off their blood supply, which deprives them of oxygen and other nutrients.

In a small percentage of patients, however, Avastin can cause neurological side effects ranging from headaches and blurry vision to potentially fatal seizures and brain swelling.

The new study reveals that VEGF normally protects the specialized cells that create a seal between the brain and spinal column and thus prevent fluid from leaking into the brain. When VEGF was blocked in mice, these cells died and the animals developed brain swelling. The authors suspect that Avastin’s side effects in humans may be caused by a similar phenomenon. Why these symptoms occur in only a few patients is not yet known.

Source: Journal of Experimental Medicine

Explore further: Drug research and development more efficient than expected

add to favorites email to friend print save as pdf

Related Stories

New therapy found for rare lung disorder

Mar 16, 2011

Researchers at the University of Cincinnati (UC) and Cincinnati Children's Hospital Medical Center have found that the FDA-approved drug sirolimus, used primarily to prevent rejection in organ transplant patients, stabilized ...

Biomarkers predict brain tumor's response to therapy

Jun 23, 2009

A report in Cancer Research, a journal of the American Association for Cancer Research, highlights a new biomarker that may be useful in identifying patients with recurrent glioblastoma, or brain tumors, who would respon ...

Recommended for you

Drug research and development more efficient than expected

Feb 27, 2015

Drug R&D costs have increased substantially in recent decades, while the number of new drugs has remained fairly constant, leading to concerns about the sustainability of drug R&D and question about the factors that could ...

Use new meningitis vaccines only for outbreaks

Feb 26, 2015

(AP)—A U.S. panel on Thursday recommended that two new meningitis vaccines only be used for rare outbreaks, resisting tearful pleas to give it routinely to teens and college students.

New antibiotic avycaz approved

Feb 26, 2015

(HealthDay)—The combination antibiotic Avycaz (ceftazidime-avibactam) has been approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration to treat adults with complicated infections of the intra-abdominal area or urinary tract, ...

Tagging drugs to fight counterfeit medicines

Feb 25, 2015

The U.S. and other countries are enacting rules to clamp down on the sales of fake pharmaceuticals, which pose a public health threat. But figuring out a system to track and authenticate legitimate drugs still faces significant ...

User comments : 0

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.