2011 Volume 34 Issue 12 Pages 1785-1788
Vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF) and its receptors (VEGFRs) have crucial roles in both physiological and pathological angiogenesis. The VEGF family consists of VEGF-A (generally called VEGF), VEGF-B, VEGF-C, VEGF-D, and placental growth factor (PlGF). These peptides show different affinities for VEGFR subtypes. VEGFR exists as three subtypes, VEGFR-1, VEGFR-2, and VEGFR-3, and is structurally related to platelet-derived growth factor receptors. All subtypes possess seven immunoglobulin-like domains in the extracellular region and a tyrosine kinase domain in the intracellular region. VEGF-A activates VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2, whereas VEGF-B and PlGF bind to only VEFGR-1. VEGF-C and VEGF-D only bind to VEGFR-3. VEGFR-1 (fms-like tyrosine kinase-1, Flt-1) negatively regulates embryonic vasculogenesis and is involved in tumor angiogenesis via activation of monocytes and macrophages. VEGFR-2 (KDR in humans or Flk-1 in mice) is predominantly responsible for both embryonic vasculogenesis and tumor angiogenesis. In contrast, VEGFR-3 (Flt-4) regulates lymphangiogenesis. Consequently, VEGF-A and VEGFR-2 are currently the main targets for antiangiogenic therapy. Bevacizumab is a humanized monoclonal antibody against VEGF-A, and aflibercept (VEGF-Trap) is a soluble fusion protein of the extracelluar domain of VEGFR-1 and VEGFR-2 and the Fc region of immunoglobulin G (IgG). They neutralize VEGF-A, resulting in prevention of tumor angiogenesis. VEGFR tyrosine kinase inhibitors such as sunitinib and sorafenib are also effective in antiangiogenic tumor therapy by inhibiting VEGFR signaling. Anti-VEGF drugs are a promising therapy for cancer patients.