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Tumor Blocker May Fight Fibrosis

from ScienceNOW Daily News

Connective tissue holds our bodies together, but in a condition called fibrosis, an overabundance of the material devastates organs such as the liver, heart, and lungs. A new study suggests that fragments of a promising cancer drug can rein in fibrosis, which is currently untreatable.

Fibrosis occurs when cells pump out excess collagen and other connective tissue proteins, which harm organs. Pulmonary fibrosis, for example, stiffens the lungs, eventually suffocating patients unless they receive a lung transplant. In people with cirrhosis, connective tissue crams into the liver. Heart and kidney disease can also be caused by fibrosis. So far, no drugs to stop or reverse fibrosis have won approval in the United States.

Cell and molecular biologist Carol Feghali-Bostwick of the University of Pittsburgh School of Medicine in Pennsylvania and colleagues decided to test whether endostatin, a drug undergoing clinical trials as a treatment for various cancers, also has an effect on fibrosis. Endostatin is one of the so-called angiogenesis inhibitors, a group of much-touted drugs that block the formation of new blood vessels that tumors need for growth. Endostatin also occurs naturally in the human body, and patients with lung fibrosis have up to 20 times the normal levels in their blood or lungs. That observation raised the possibility that the protein is a natural defense against connective-tissue overgrowth, says Feghali-Bostwick.

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