Molecular Mechanisms of Tumor Angiogenesis

Safiyyah Ziyad, M. Luisa Iruela-Arispe

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

98 Scopus citations


Tumors have been recently recognized as aberrant organs composed of a complex mixture of highly interactive cells that in addition to the cancer cell include stroma (fibroblasts, adipocytes, and myofibroblasts), inflammatory (innate and adaptive immune cells), and vascular cells (endothelial and mural cells). While initially cancer cells co-opt tissue-resident vessels, the tumor eventually recruits its own vascular supply. The process of tumor neovascularization proceeds through the combined output of inductive signals from the entire cellular constituency of the tumor. During the last two decades, the identification and mechanistic outcome of signaling pathways that mediate tumor angiogenesis have been elucidated. Interestingly, many of the genes and signaling pathways activated in tumor angiogenesis are identical to those operational during developmental vascular growth, but they lack feedback regulatory control and are highly affected by inflammatory cells and hypoxia. Consequently, tumor vessels are abnormal, fragile, and hyperpermeable. The lack of hierarchy and inconsistent investment of mural cells dampen the ability of the vessels to effectively perfuse the tumor, and the resulting hypoxia installs a vicious cycle that continuously perpetuates a state of vascular inefficiency. Pharmacological targeting of blood vessels, mainly through the VEGF signaling pathway, has proven effective in normalizing tumor vessels. This normalization improves perfusion and distribution of chemotherapeutic drugs with resulting tumor suppression and moderate increase in overall survival. However, resistance to antiangiogenic therapy occurs frequently and constitutes a critical barrier in the inhibition of tumor growth. A concrete understanding of the chief signaling pathways that stimulate vascular growth in tumors and their cross-talk will continue to be essential to further refine and effectively abort the angiogenic response in cancer.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1085-1096
Number of pages12
JournalGenes and Cancer
Issue number12
StatePublished - Dec 2011


  • Delta
  • Eph
  • Ephrin
  • Jagged
  • Notch
  • Robo
  • Slit
  • Tie
  • VEGF
  • angiopoietins
  • endothelial cells
  • neovascularization
  • tumor angiogenesis

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Genetics
  • Cancer Research


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