Avastin Boosted Survival for Type of Aggressive Breast
WEDNESDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- In November, the U.S. Food
and Drug Administration revoked its approval of the drug Avastin
for the treatment of breast cancer. But, a new study suggests that
the drug can boost the survival of women with a specific type of
aggressive breast tumor when used in conjunction with two other
Avastin (bevacizumab) had been approved in the United States in
2008 as a treatment for metastatic breast cancer -- cancer that has
spread to other parts of the body. It was used with chemotherapy to
treat a type of breast tumor called HER2-negative.
Even though the FDA withdrew that approval, Avastin is still
approved to treat some other types of cancers. Doctors may legally
prescribe the drug to treat breast cancer, although insurers may
refuse to cover it.
According to the FDA, the benefits of Avastin use for breast
cancer do not justify the risks, which may include severe high
blood pressure, bleeding, and heart attack or heart failure.
The new study was funded by Genentech, which makes Avastin, and
led by Dr. Luca Gianni, director of medical oncology at the San
Raffaele Cancer Center in Milan, Italy. They examined the use of
the drug as a treatment for HER2-
positive breast cancer that had recurred locally in the body
or spread to other parts of the body. HER2-positive breast cancers
are typically less sensitive to standard hormonal treatments and
are often more aggressive than other types.
A total of 216 patients received Avastin with a chemotherapy
treatment of trastuzumab (Herceptin) and docetaxel, while 208
received the chemotherapy alone.
An investigator and an expert review committee disagreed about
how much of a difference the drug made in the risk of cancer
progression or death. But overall, according to investigator and
independent review committee analysis, the addition of the Avastin
boosted the average months of survival (without worsening of the
cancer) by nearly three months, the researchers said.
Dr. Hannah M. Linden, an oncologist and associate professor of
medicine at the University of Washington in Seattle, called the
"I am delighted that further analysis will be done to try to determine which tumors respond to each therapy, and really which tumors do not need extra treatment," Linden said. "With HER 2-positive
tumors, we have a plethora of options and need to learn to be
efficient in maximizing benefit to patients and minimizing
The study is scheduled for presentation this week at the 2011
San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium. The data and conclusions of
research presented at medical meetings should be viewed as
preliminary until published in a peer-reviewed journal.
The U.S. National Library of Medicine has more about
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