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The tumor vascular effects of the tubulin destabilizing agent disodium combretastatinA-4 3-O-phosphate (CA-4-P) were investigated in the rat P22 tumor growing in a dorsal skin flap window chamber implanted into BD9 rats. CA-4-P is in clinical trial as a tumor vascular targeting agent. In animal tumors, it can cause the shut-down of blood flow, leading to extensive tumor cell necrosis. However, the mechanisms leading to vascular shut-down are still unknown. Tumor vascular effects were visualized and monitored on-line before and after the administration of two doses of CA-4-P (30 and 100 mg/kg) using intravital microscopy. The combined effect of CA-4-P and systemic nitric oxide synthase (NOS) inhibition using N(omega)-nitro-L-arginine (L-NNA) was also assessed, because this combination has been shown previously to have a potentiating effect. The early effect of CA-4-P on tumor vascular permeability to albumin was determined to assess whether this could be involved in the mechanism of action of the drug. Tumor blood flow reduction was extremely rapid after CA-4-P treatment, with red cell velocity decreasing throughout the observation period and dropping to <5% of the starting value by 1 h. NOS inhibition alone caused a 50% decrease in red cell velocity, and the combined treatment of CA-4-P and NOS inhibition was approximately additive. The mechanism of blood flow reduction was very different for NOS inhibition and CA-4-P. That of NOS inhibition could be explained by a decrease in vessel diameter, which was most profound on the arteriolar side of the tumor circulation. In contrast, the effects of CA-4-P resembled an acute inflammatory reaction resulting in a visible loss of a large proportion of the smallest blood vessels. There was some return of visible vasculature at 1 h after treatment, but the blood in these vessels was static or nearly so, and many of the vessels were distended. The hematocrit within larger draining tumor venules tended to increase at early times after CA-4-P, suggesting fluid loss from the blood. The stacking of red cells to form rouleaux was also a common feature, coincident with slowing of blood flow; and these two factors would lead to an increase in viscous resistance to blood flow. Tumor vascular permeability to albumin was increased to approximately 160% of control values at 1 and 10 min after treatment. This could lead to an early decrease in tumor blood flow via an imbalance between intravascular and tissue pressures and/or an increase in blood viscosity as a result of increased hematocrit. These results suggest a mechanism of action of CA-4-P in vivo. Combination of CA-4-P with a NOS inhibitor has an additive effect, which it may be possible to exploit therapeutically.


Journal article


Cancer Res

Publication Date





6413 - 6422


Angiogenesis Inhibitors, Animals, Antineoplastic Agents, Phytogenic, Capillary Permeability, Carcinosarcoma, Drug Synergism, Enzyme Inhibitors, Male, Microscopy, Fluorescence, Neoplasms, Experimental, Neovascularization, Pathologic, Nitric Oxide, Nitric Oxide Synthase, Nitroarginine, Rats, Stilbenes