Over the past decade a number of vascular complications have emerged, such as newly developed or worsened hypertension, in patients who were administered with new cancer treatments for several types of cancer that were untreatable earlier. Hypertension is emerging as one of the most common adverse effects of therapy with angiogenesis inhibitors. Small-molecule inhibitors of vascular endothelial growth factor signalling are associated with a high proportion of patients with hypertension. The mechanisms underlying the development of hypertension are not well known, although there seem to be several mechanisms. Physiopathology of hypertension implicates abnormalities in endothelial function and angiogenesis. Several features of hypertensive patients are reduced number of arterioles and capillaries, alterations of the microvascular network, decrease in vascular wall compliance and flexibility, reduced nitric oxide bioactivity and increases in plasma vascular endothelial growth factor. Treatment with tyrosine kinase inhibitors (TKIs) is associated with a significant and sustained increase in blood pressure. We suspect that TKIs exert their hypertensive effects directly at the level of the microvascular network through processes such as vascular rarefaction, endothelial dysfunction and/or altered nitric oxide metabolism. This study shows the vascular complications of treatment with a TKI, sunitinib (SU11248), with special emphasis on hypertension.
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