The findings are published in the December issue of Science Signaling.
Angiogenesis creates new blood vessels in a process that can lead to the onset and progression of several diseases such as cancer and age-related macular degeneration.
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) is a signaling protein produced by damaged cells, which binds to one of its receptors VEGFR-2, located on the surface of blood vessel cells. Once VEGF is bound to its receptor, it is activated and sends a biochemical signal to the inside of the blood vessel cell to initiate angiogenesis. There are currently multiple Federal Drug Administration-approved medications that target this process. However these medications are limited by insufficient efficacy and the development of resistance.
The researchers demonstrated that a biochemical process called methylation, which can regulate gene expression, also affects VEGFR-2, and this can lead to angiogenesis. Using multiple methods, the researchers were able to interfere with 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,” said Nader Rahimi, PhD, associate professor of pathology, BUSM, who served as the study’s senior investigator.
Ed Hartsough, a graduate student and Rosana Meyer, a postdoctoral fellow at the department of pathology, BUSM, are the co-primary authors. Funding for this study was provided in part by the National Institutes of Health through grant award numbers R01EY017955, P41 RR010888/GM104603, S10 RR020946, HHSN268201000031C and DK080946 AQ12 and the Massachusetts Lions Foundation.
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