Avastin won't extend breast cancer survival: study

by Kathleen Doheny, Healthday Reporter
Avastin won't extend breast cancer survival: study
Costly drug comes with serious side effects, researchers say.

(HealthDay)—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 Cancer Research.

He was scheduled to present the findings Friday at the 2012 San Antonio Breast Cancer Symposium.

Previous studies of had found benefit. However, in 2011, the U.S. revoked approval of the drug for late-stage breast cancer, citing risks—such as heart failure and severe —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 findings.

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 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 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 gene.

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 patients.

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.

More information: To learn more about breast cancer, visit the American Cancer Society.

Related Stories

Avastin disappoints against ovarian cancer

Dec 28, 2011

Avastin, the blockbuster drug that just lost approval for treating breast cancer, now looks disappointing against ovarian cancer, too. Two studies found it did not improve survival for most of these patients and kept their ...

US revokes Roche's Avastin for breast cancer

Nov 18, 2011

US health officials on Friday revoked the authorization of Roche's Avastin for breast cancer treatment, saying it concluded the drug had "not been shown to be safe and effective for that use."

Studies: Avastin may fight early breast cancers

Jan 25, 2012

Surprising results from two new studies may reopen debate about the value of Avastin for breast cancer. The drug helped make tumors disappear in certain women with early-stage disease, researchers found.

FDA says breast cancer drug did not extend lives

Jul 16, 2010

(AP) -- Federal health scientists said Friday that follow-up studies of a Roche breast cancer drug show it failed to slow tumor growth or extend patient lives, opening the door for a potential withdrawal in that indication.

Recommended for you

US approves new, hard-to-abuse hydrocodone pill (Update)

Nov 20, 2014

U.S. government health regulators on Thursday approved the first hard-to-abuse version of the painkiller hydrocodone, offering an alternative to a similar medication that has been widely criticized for lacking ...

Soaring generic drug prices draw Senate scrutiny

Nov 20, 2014

Some low-cost generic drugs that have helped restrain health care costs for decades are seeing unexpected price spikes of up to 8,000 percent, prompting a backlash from patients, pharmacists and now Washington ...

Only half of patients take their medications as prescribed

Nov 20, 2014

The cost of patients not taking their medications as prescribed can be substantial in terms of their health. Although a large amount of research evidence has tried to address this problem, there are no well-established ...

User comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.