Angiogenesis, the sprouting of new blood vessels from existing vessels, is one of six known mechanisms employed by solid tumors to recruit blood vessels necessary for their initiation, growth, and metastatic spread. The vascular network within the tumor facilitates the transport of nutrients, oxygen, and immune cells and is regulated by pro- and anti-angiogenic factors. Nearly four decades ago, VEGF was identified as a critical factor promoting vascular permeability and angiogenesis, followed by identification of VEGF family ligands and their receptors (VEGFR). Since then, over a dozen drugs targeting the VEGF/VEGFR pathway have been approved for approximately 20 solid tumor types, usually in combination with other therapies. Initially designed to starve tumors, these agents transiently “normalize” tumor vessels in preclinical and clinical studies, and in the clinic, increased tumor blood perfusion or oxygenation in response to these agents is associated with improved outcomes. Nevertheless, the survival benefit has been modest in most tumor types, and there are currently no biomarkers in routine clinical use for identifying which patients are most likely to benefit from treatment. However, the ability of these agents to reprogram the immunosuppressive tumor microenvironment into an immunostimulatory milieu has rekindled interest and has led to the FDA approval of seven different combinations of VEGF/VEGFR pathway inhibitors with immune checkpoint blockers for many solid tumors in the past 3 years. In this review, we discuss our understanding of the mechanisms of response and resistance to blocking VEGF/VEGFR, and potential strategies to develop more effective therapeutic approaches.

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