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Additional resources for Tackling Major Killers: Heart Disease (Scientific American Special Online Issue No. 5)

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But those tests were designed solely to assess whether the compounds are safe and nontoxic, which they appear to be. Human tests of efficacy are under way and will be a much better judge of whether angiogenesis inhibitors can live up to their very great promise. The Genesis of Angiogenesis T H E T E R M “angiogenesis” technically refers to the branching and extension of existing capillaries, whose walls consist of just one layer of so-called endothelial cells. In its normal guise, angiogenesis helps to repair injured tissues.

We will therefore focus the bulk of our discussion on those agents. Intriguingly, animal tests show that inhibitors of vessel growth can boost the effectiveness of traditional cancer treatments (chemotherapy and radiation). Preliminary studies also hint that the agents might one day be delivered as a preventive measure to block malignancies from arising in the first place in people at risk for cancer. Results from the first human tests of several compounds that block blood vessel growth were announced earlier this JANUARY 2003 36 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN SPECIAL ONLINE ISSUE COPYRIGHT 2003 SCIENTIFIC AMERICAN, INC.

This normalization can help anticancer agents reach tumors more effectively. ■ ly, we and other scientists are working to understand the mechanisms that underlie abnormal vessel growth. This effort will help us develop and optimize drugs that block vessel growth— or improve vessel function. The study of small vessel growth—a phenomenon referred to generally as angiogenesis—has such potential for providing new therapies that it has been the subject of countless news stories and has received enthusiastic interest from the pharmaceutical and biotechnology industries.

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Tackling Major Killers: Heart Disease (Scientific American Special Online Issue No. 5) by Scientific American inc.


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