June 4, 2012 § Leave a Comment
Avastin, a cancer drug approved for certain types of cancers, including metastatic colerectal cancer, metastatic kidney cancer, and advanced nonsquamous non-small cell lung cancer, has been found to help battle tough-to-treat ovarian tumors, according to a a study conducted by French researchers.
“This is the first time that there has been a significant advance in these difficult-to-treat patients,” said Dr. Eric Pujade-Lauraine, study author and head of medical oncology at Hopitaux Universitaires Paris-Centre site Hotel-Dieu, in France. “These data open a new era for biologics when chemotherapy is not doing its job in recurrent ovarian cancer.”
Some physicians are already using Avastin in these situations, according to Dr. Elizabeth Poynor, pelvic surgeon and gynecologic oncologist at New York’s Lenox Hill Hospital. This latest trial, “provides further evidence of benefit,” said Poynor. “It may not seem like three months is spectacular progression-free survival, but this suggests that angiogenesis drugs probably have a real role to play [in ovarian cancer],” Poynor commented. “We’re defining how to use Avastin in ovarian cancer.”
The study evaluated 361 women whose ovarian cancer quit responding to traditional chemotherapy. After a follow-up month of approximately 13 and a half months, 91 percent of those who received only chemotherapy had a cancer recurrence, compared to 75 percent of the patients who received Avastin in conjunction with chemotherapy. The Avastin combination group had a median transition of disease to death of 6.7 months compared to 3.4 months of the chemotherapy only group.
In other words, Avastin (bevacizumab) showed an approximate doubling in the length of time the advanced ovarian cancer women lived without a worsening in their disease.
The study findings are significant since approximately one in five women who have ovarian cancer either is resistant to platinum-based chemotherapy or becomes resistant to it.
Avastin, made by Roche’s Genentech division, was an initial class of drugs developed to discourage the formation of blood vessels, which helps propels a tumor’s growth.
The study wasn’t without some caveats, however. The study authors report that the women part of the group taking Avastin had more side effects, including hypertension, gastrointestinal perforations, and abscesses.
“This is very early research. With time, as the data matures, we will begin to answer the question as to whether this drug is really worthwhile,” said Dr. Jay Brooks, chairman of hematology/oncology at Ochsner Health System in Baton Rouge, La.
The drug is currently approved in Europe for ovarian cancer, but has not received FDA approval for ovarian cancer to date.
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