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Building on basics

Stopping cancer in its tracks

Part of the reason lies in when the cancer is diagnosed, but part of it lies in the genetic mechanisms of cancer. The aggressive ones start earlier in a man's life and spread to other sites in the body - the dreaded metastasis.

Evans' research is aimed at halting this process by developing new drugs that inhibit urokinase plasminogen activator (u-PA), an enzyme that scientists believe helps tumors develop new blood vessels for oxygen and other nutrients, a process called angiogenesis.

First identified in 1937, angiogenesis is crucial for human development. It's how eggs become implanted into the placenta and how we develop into normal, healthy babies. In adults, it helps in wound healing.

In 1972 Harvard researcher Dr. Judah Folkman first proposed that angiogenesis also helps tumors to form new blood vessels, and that cutting off the tumor's blood supply could save lives. Angiogenesis research is now one of the hottest areas of cancer drug development. Evans estimates that at least a dozen angiogenesis inhibitors are currently being tested in clinical trials across the country, including a Phase II trial at the UC Davis Cancer Center.

Angiogenesis is critical to cancer progression. Without nutrients, the average prostate tumor cannot grow beyond three millimeters - a little bigger than the period at the end of this sentence. Once nourished, however, "cancer cells can grow, gain access to the blood supply and spread through the body," says Evans.


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