Avastin Won't Extend Breast Cancer Survival: Study
FRIDAY, Dec. 7 (HealthDay News) -- The drug Avastin
(bevacizumab), when added to chemotherapy, does not improve
disease-free survival in patients with triple-negative breast
cancer any better than chemo alone, new research finds.
"Therefore, sadly for patients, we have nothing extra to add to
chemotherapy for early, triple-negative breast cancer," Dr. David
Cameron, a professor of oncology at Edinburgh University in
Scotland, said in a news release from the American Association for
He was scheduled to present the findings Friday at the 2012 San
Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.
Previous studies of Avastin had found benefit. However, in 2011,
the U.S. Food and Drug Administration revoked approval of the drug
for late-stage breast cancer, citing risks -- such as heart failure
and severe high blood pressure -- that outweigh the benefits. The
drug may still be used off-label, with doctors prescribing it to
patients if they think that patient could be helped.
This new study signals the death of the drug for breast cancer,
although it is helpful in other cancers, said Dr. Joanne Mortimer,
director of Women's Cancer Programs for the City of Hope
Comprehensive Cancer Center in Duarte, Calif. She reviewed the new
Another physician took a different view, saying others should
consider continuing research on the drug. "We have all seen some
success stories with the drug, and Avastin may be a drug that works
in only a select few," said Dr. Stephanie Bernik, chief of surgical
oncology at Lenox Hill Hospital in New York City.
Avastin is marketed by Genentech. Swiss drugmaker Hoffmann-La
Roche, which acquired Genentech, sponsored the study.
For the new study, researchers randomly assigned nearly 2,600
patients with triple-negative operable primary invasive breast
cancer to four or more cycles of chemotherapy. They used either an
anthracycline-based or taxane-based chemo drug. One group also
received a year of Avastin therapy.
Triple-negative breast cancer refers to those tumors that do not
have estrogen or progesterone receptors or express the HER2/neu
The researchers followed the women to see if the Avastin made a
difference in disease-free survival. At a median follow-up of 32
months, no significant improvement occurred by adding Avastin.
Among those who received chemo alone, 107 died during the
follow-up period, compared with 93 deaths in the group getting
chemo plus Avastin, the investigators found.
Those in the Avastin group were more likely than the chemo-alone
group to have problems such as severe high blood pressure and
congestive heart failure.
The drug is effective in other cancers, Mortimer said. "It's a
very important drug for lung, [gastrointestinal] and kidney
cancers," she explained.
The drug is still listed in the recommendations for breast
cancer treatment by the National Comprehensive Cancer Network. The
not-for-profit is an alliance of 21 major international cancer
centers, including City of Hope.
Health insurers turn to the recommendations when deciding which
drugs to cover. Avastin is costly, about $112,000 a year for breast
Because this study was presented at a medical meeting, the data
and conclusions should be viewed as preliminary until published in
a peer-reviewed journal.
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