Months More of Life

Avastin shows overall survival benefit in patients with advanced cervical cancer

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD

(RxWiki News) Any time the word “advanced” goes before a type of cancer, that’s not good. Advanced cancers have either spread, come back or no longer respond to therapy.

A recent phase III trial showed that one medication extended the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer.

Advanced cervical cancer patients who took Avastin (bevacizumab), along with chemotherapy, lived about four months longer than women who did not take the medication.

This finding may be a step in turning this advanced cancer into a disease that can be managed over time.

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Krishnansu Sujata Tewari, MD, a professor of obstetrics and gynecology at the University of California Irvine in Orange, California, led this study that involved 452 women with stage III or IV cervical cancer.

The study tested two chemotherapy regimens with and without the addition of bevacizumab, which blocks blood vessels that feed tumor growth. 

The two chemotherapy regimens were cisplatin plus paclitaxel and topotecan plus paclitaxel. The researchers found no difference in overall survival between the two chemotherapy regimens.

A total of 225 participants received chemotherapy alone and 222 women took bevacizumab along with the chemotherapy.

Key findings included the following:

  • Women taking bevacizumab lived an average of 17 months compared to 13.3 months for women receiving only chemotherapy.
  • Tumors shrank in more of the women – 48 percent vs 36 percent for those on chemotherapy only.
  • Quality of life was not seriously affected among the women taking bevacizumab.
  • Bevacizumab was associated with some serious side effects, including bleeding and blood clots, in some patients.

Dr. Tewari explained that women with advanced cervical cancer don’t have a lot of options. That bevacizumab helps to control the disease is excellent news.

“For the first time a targeted agent significantly improved [overall survival] in gynecologic cancer,” the authors wrote.

“This is also possibly a first step toward turning cervical cancer into a chronic disease, helping women live longer and allowing time for additional treatments that could further slow the cancer’s progression and improve survival,” Dr. Tewari said in a prepared statement.

While bevacizumab is currently approved by the US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat several advanced cancers, it is not approved for use in any gynecologic cancer.

A 16 ml vial of Avastin costs about $2,700.

Findings from this research were presented at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) Annual Meeting. All research is considered preliminary before it is published in a peer-reviewed journal.

One of the authors, Bradley Monk, MD, disclosed he has a financial relationship with Roche/Genentech, the maker of Avastin.

Reviewed by: 
Review Date: 
May 31, 2013
Last Updated:
August 14, 2013