Pharmacy Professor Lee Receives $1.6 Million NIH Grant to Explore Therapeutics in Tumor Angiogenesis

Daniel Helfand

The Ohio State University College of Pharmacy Division of Pharmacology Assistant Professor Nam Lee has received a $1.6 million grant from the National Institute of Health’s National Cancer Institute (NIH NCI) to study therapeutics that target pathways essential for tumor angiogenesis (i.e., how tumors recruit new blood vessels for growth). NIH NCI’s grant will fund the project for five years.

While many strategies exist for inhibiting tumor angiogenesis, Food and Drug Administration approved drugs like Avastin (bevacizumab) have yielded mixed results. Lee’s project aims to understand the basic mechanisms by which another potential vascular target, endoglin (CD105), a protein located on cell surfaces, promotes tumor-associated angiogenesis.

“My lab is going to look at several treatment options to better determine what ways we can improve and make current drugs more effective in fighting angiogenesis,” said Lee. “There is still so much we can learn about the subject.”

Part of Lee’s study will explore the anti-angiogenic properties of TRACON 105 (TRC105), an antibody in clinical trials that targets endoglin. Surprisingly, his preliminary work has demonstrated that TRC105 and other endoglin-targeting antibodies inhibit angiogenesis by critically altering, rather than inhibiting, normal endoglin functions. Lee’s lab will also look at how targeting endoglin and other pro-angiogenic factors simultaneously will affect tumor growth.

“Endoglin’s anti-tumor properties are well established, but defining the biochemical and cellular mechanisms have been difficult and somewhat controversial,” said Lee. “The research conducted will hopefully lead to a better understanding of how endoglin promotes angiogenesis at the molecular and cellular level. This knowledge will be essential for improving the efficacy of various endoglin antibodies and ultimately help predict patients who will benefit most from these types of endoglin-based treatments.”