Solid tumors express a range of growth factors required to sustain their growth and promote their dissemination. Among these factors is vascular endothelial growth factor-A (VEGF-A), the key angiogenic stimulant, and VEGF-C, a primary mediator of lymphangiogenesis. Small molecule tyrosine kinase inhibitors can prevent VEGF signaling activity by targeting the VEGF receptors and are an effective approach to impede tumor progression. The indole-ether quinazoline AZD2171 is a highly potent ATP-competitive inhibitor of VEGFR-2 (KDR) kinase, with additional activity against VEGFR-1 (Flt-1) and -3 (Flt-4), that has been shown in experimental models to prevent VEGF-A-induced angiogenesis and primary tumor growth (Wedge et al. Cancer Res 2005;65:4389-4400). For these studies we wished to further assess the ability of AZD2171 to inhibit VEGFR-3 and its associated functions. Upon binding its ligands VEGF-C or -D, VEGFR-3 becomes activated with the resulting signaling cascade eventually translated into increased proliferation, survival and migration of lymphatic and blood vascular endothelial cells. At concentrations of ≤1 nM AZD2171 inhibited VEGFR-3 phosphorylation in porcine aortic endothelial cells selectively expressing the human receptor, and in human dermal microvascular endothelial cells (HDMVECs). In HDMVECs, AZD2171 prevented phosphorylation of signaling molecules downstream of VEGFR-2 and -3, ERK1/2, Akt and CREB, induced by the VEGFR-2 and -3-specific ligands VEGF-E and -C156S, respectively. Additionally, AZD2171 blocked VEGF-E- and -C156S-induced proliferation of both lymphatic and blood vascular endothelial cells at similar concentrations, and prevented ligand-induced endothelial cell cord formation in a Matrigel assay. The effects of AZD2171 on VEGF-C-induced lymphangiogenesis are currently being assessed in vivo. These studies, together with previous results, not only demonstrate that AZD2171 may be an effective means of preventing tumor progression by inhibition of VEGFR-2 activity and angiogenesis, but may also prevent further tumor spread by inhibiting VEGFR-3 activity and, consequently, lymphangiogenesis.
98th AACR Annual Meeting-- Apr 14-18, 2007; Los Angeles, CA