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Benefit of Avastin for metastatic breast cancer is small

Tuesday July 17th, 2012

A new review of the evidence is warning that the cancer drug bevacizumab (Avastin) is only slightly effective for patients with advanced breast cancer.

Drugs such as bevacizumab, that target a blood vessel molecule called vascular endothelial growth factor, are considered a promising new approach to breast cancer which has spread to other parts of the body.

The Cochrane review looked at the efficacy of bevacizumab plus chemotherapy and found "no overall survival benefit" of adding bevacizumab to chemotherapy.

The researchers, led by Dr Anna Dorothea Wagner of University Hospital Lausanne, Switzerland, used findings from seven trials involving a total of 4,032 patients, mostly with metastatic breast cancer.

Analysis showed that adding bevacizumab increased the time to tumour progression or death by between one and six months, depending on which chemotherapy drugs were used. But adding bevacizumab to first- or second-line treatments did not increase either overall survival or quality of life.

The experts recommend that trials of new drugs for advanced breast cancer should follow patients until death, so the impact of new treatments on survival can be seen.

Dr Wagner says: "At best, adding bevacizumab to standard chemotherapy appears to offer a modest benefit for those with metastatic breast cancer.

"Whether it can truly be of benefit to the patient is debatable, because it only briefly prolongs progression of the disease. No impact on the patient's overall survival or quality of life has been demonstrated.

"The fact that an increase in progression-free survival does not lead to an increase in overall survival suggests that progression-free survival may not be a reliable surrogate for clinical trials in metastatic cancer."

Vascular-endothelial-growth-factor (VEGF) targeting therapies for endocrine refractory or resistant metastatic breast cancer. Wagner, A. D. et al. Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012, Issue 7. Art. No.: CD008941. doi: 10.1002/14651858.CD008941.pub2.

Tags: Cancer | Europe | Pharmaceuticals

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