Open Access Highly Accessed Research article

Anti-vascular agent Combretastatin A-4-P modulates Hypoxia Inducible Factor-1 and gene expression

Gabi U Dachs12*, Andrew J Steele2, Claudia Coralli2, Chryso Kanthou23, Andrew C Brooks2, Sarah P Gunningham1, Margaret J Currie1, Ally I Watson1, Bridget A Robinson1 and Gillian M Tozer23

Author Affiliations

1 Angiogenesis Research Group, Department of Pathology, Christchurch School of Medicine and Health Sciences, University of Otago, Christchurch, New Zealand

2 Tumour Microcirculation Group, Gray Cancer Institute, Mount Vernon Hospital, Northwood, HA6 2JR, UK

3 Academic Unit of Surgical Oncology, Division of Clinical Sciences, University of Sheffield, Sheffield, S10 2JF, UK

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BMC Cancer 2006, 6:280  doi:10.1186/1471-2407-6-280

Published: 7 December 2006



A functional vascular network is essential for the survival, growth and spread of solid tumours, making blood vessels a key target for therapeutic strategies. Combretastatin A-4 phosphate (CA-4-P) is a tubulin-depolymerising agent in Phase II clinical trials as a vascular disrupting agent. Not much is known of the molecular effect of CA-4-P under tumour conditions. The tumour microenvironment differs markedly from that in normal tissue, specifically with respect to oxygenation (hypoxia). Gene regulation under tumour conditions is governed by hypoxia inducible factor 1 (HIF-1), controlling angiogenic and metastatic pathways.


We investigated the effect of CA-4-P on factors of the upstream and downstream signalling pathway of HIF-1 in vitro.


CA-4-P treatment under hypoxia tended to reduce HIF-1 accumulation in a concentration-dependent manner, an effect which was more prominent in endothelial cells than in cancer cell lines. Conversely, CA-4-P increased HIF-1 accumulation under aerobic conditions in vitro. At these concentrations of CA-4-P under aerobic conditions, nuclear factor κB was activated via the small GTPase RhoA, and expression of the HIF-1 downstream angiogenic effector gene, vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF-A), was increased.


Our findings advance the understanding of signal transduction pathways involved in the actions of the anti-vascular agent CA-4-P.