Breast Cancer Drug Controversy Continues

Metastatic breast cancer overall survival not improved with Avastin

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

(RxWiki News) Cancer tumors need an entire support structure of blood vessels to get the nutrients it needs to survive. A drug that goes after the support structure in metastatic breast cancer slows the progression of the disease, but doesn't prolong life.

Researchers believe Avastin (bevacizumab) did little to improve the overall survival of people living with breast cancer that had spread to other areas of the body.

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A systematic review by Cochrane researchers included analyzing evidence from seven clinical trials involving just over 4,000 patients. Most of the participants had metastatic breast cancer.

Avastin targets the molecule that manages the growth of tumor blood vessels - vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF).

Researchers found that adding Avastin to other established chemotherapy regimens increased the amount of time before the tumor started growing again by one to six months. This period is known as progression-free survival.

In terms of extending life or enhancing quality of life, Avastin was minimally effective in this research study.

"At best, adding bevacizumab to standard chemotherapy appears to offer a modest benefit for those with metastatic breast cancer," said lead researcher, Anna Dorothea Wagner, of the Fondation du Centre Pluridisciplinaire d'Oncologie, University Hospital Lausanne in Switzerland.

"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," Wagner said.

The authors concluded, " For this reason, the clinical value of bevacizumab for metastatic breast cancer remains controversial."

This study was published July 11 in the Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2012. 

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Review Date: 
July 17, 2012
Last Updated:
September 7, 2012