Protein levels could predict if bowel cancer patients will benefit from Avastin

October 23, 2012, University of Bristol

Comparing levels of specific proteins that the drug Avastin targets could identify patients with advanced bowel cancer who will benefit from the treatment, according to research published in Clinical Cancer Research.

, or , has been shown to increase survival from bowel cancer in around ten to 15 per cent of patients, but it has been impossible to predict who will benefit.

Avastin works by targeting and blocking the VEGF-A , two major forms of which are VEGF165 and VEGF165b.

VEGF165 helps cancers to grow new , so they can get food and oxygen from the blood - all cancers need a blood supply to be able to survive and grow. Its sister protein, VEGF165b, has the opposite effect and acts as a brake on this growth.

Cancer Research UK funded scientists at the University of Bristol looked at the effect Avastin had on patients with different levels of VEGF165b and compared this with patients who were not given the drug at all.

Those with low levels of VEGF165b survived three months longer without the disease progressing compared to patients not treated with Avastin. But patients with higher levels of the protein saw no benefit from Avastin and survived no longer than as those who were not given the drug.

Avastin blocks both forms of VEGF-A, so in patients with lower levels of VEGF165b more Avastin may be available to block the blood vessel promoting protein VEGF165, eventually starving the cancer.

Professor David Bates, lead researcher from the University of Bristol's School of Physiology and , said: "Avastin has shown great potential for a minority of people with bowel cancer, but it's been impossible to predict who will benefit from the drug. Currently, Avastin is not approved by NICE for patients with advanced bowel cancer because they feel that the benefit to an unknown minority of patients does not justify the cost of treatment.

"We now need to look at cancer samples from a larger group of patients about to start taking Avastin and determine if the amount of VEGF165b can accurately identify those patients that will benefit and so potentially open a new treatment option for some people with advanced bowel cancer."

is the third most common cancer in the UK with around 41,000 people diagnosed each year. Survival rates have doubled over the last 40 years but 16,000 people still die from the disease.

Dr Julie Sharp, senior science information manager at Cancer Research UK, said: "New targeted treatments can be hugely beneficial for certain patients, depending on the characteristics of their tumour. But, we don't always know who these patients are. This work takes researchers a step closer to developing a suitable test so doctors can give Avastin to those people it will really make a difference to."

Explore further: Avastin no benefit to older lung cancer patients: study

Related Stories

Avastin no benefit to older lung cancer patients: study

April 17, 2012
(HealthDay) -- Medicare patients who have advanced non-small cell lung cancer appear to get no survival benefit from adding the drug Avastin to standard chemotherapy, researchers from the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute report.

Blood proteins may identify vulnerability of pancreatic cancers to avastin

June 7, 2011
(Medical Xpress) -- Tiny tumor proteins circulating in blood may be used to identify which pancreatic cancer patients would benefit from the drug Avastin, researchers at Duke University Medical Center have found.

US revokes Roche's Avastin for breast cancer

November 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."

Avastin disappoints against ovarian cancer

December 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 ...

Recommended for you

Researchers identify new treatment target for melanoma

January 16, 2018
Researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania have identified a new therapeutic target for the treatment of melanoma. For decades, research has associated female sex and a history of previous ...

More evidence of link between severe gum disease and cancer risk

January 16, 2018
Data collected during a long-term health study provides additional evidence for a link between increased risk of cancer in individuals with advanced gum disease, according to a new collaborative study led by epidemiologists ...

Researchers develop a remote-controlled cancer immunotherapy system

January 15, 2018
A team of researchers has developed an ultrasound-based system that can non-invasively and remotely control genetic processes in live immune T cells so that they recognize and kill cancer cells.

Pancreatic tumors may require a one-two-three punch

January 15, 2018
One of the many difficult things about pancreatic cancer is that tumors are resistant to most treatments because of their unique density and cell composition. However, in a new Wilmot Cancer Institute study, scientists discovered ...

New immunotherapy approach boosts body's ability to destroy cancer cells

January 12, 2018
Few cancer treatments are generating more excitement these days than immunotherapy—drugs based on the principle that the immune system can be harnessed to detect and kill cancer cells, much in the same way that it goes ...

Cancer's gene-determined 'immune landscape' dictates progression of prostate tumors

January 12, 2018
The field of immunotherapy - the harnessing of patients' own immune systems to fend off cancer - is revolutionizing cancer treatment today. However, clinical trials often show marked improvements in only small subsets of ...

0 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.