Cervical Cancer

03 June 2013

Roche's Avastin extends life in advanced cervical cancer

Roche Holding AG's drug Avastin helped prolong the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer when added to chemotherapy in a late-stage clinical trial, likely paving the way to another major use for the multibillion-dollar medicine.

0

Roche Holding AG's drug Avastin helped prolong the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer when added to chemotherapy in a late-stage clinical trial, likely paving the way to another major use for the multibillion-dollar medicine.

This marked the first study to demonstrate that a drug which blocks blood vessel formation in the tumour can prolong the lives of women with gynaecologic cancers, researchers said.

In the study of 452 patients with cervical cancer that had spread or returned, those who received Avastin on top of chemotherapy on average lived for 17 months. That compared with a median overall survival of 13.3 months for those who received only chemotherapy. The result was considered to be statistically significant.

Improving your health

"Improvement in overall survival is a huge deal in this disease," Dr Krishnansu Sujata Tewari, the study's lead investigator, said in an interview.

The current standard treatment for cervical cancer that has recurred or spread offers little hope, and patients tend to live for 12 months or less.

"We finally have a drug that helps women live longer," said Tewari, who presented data from the study on Sunday at the American Society of Clinical Oncology (ASCO) meeting in Chicago

Avastin, which had sales approaching $6 billion in 2012, is approved in the United States to treat cancers of the colon, lungs and kidneys, and - pending additional confirmatory data - has conditional approval for a type of brain cancer. In some overseas markets it is also approved for ovarian and breast cancer. A conditional US breast cancer approval was pulled after it failed to prolong survival in clinical trials.

An approval for treating advanced cervical cancer would open another large market for the medicine in patients for whom chemotherapy has been largely ineffective. About 4 000 women in the United States and 250 000 worldwide die each year from the disease.

Survival between the two chemotherapy regimens

The National Cancer Institute-sponsored study tested two chemotherapy regimens against the Avastin combination - cisplatin plus paclitaxel and topotecan plus paclitaxel - to assess if topotecan performed any better than commonly used cisplatin. Researchers found no significant differences in survival between the two chemotherapy regimens.

Avastin with either chemo agent also met secondary goals of the trial by improving progression-free survival (PFS), or the time before the disease began to worsen, to 8.2 months versus 5.9 months for chemotherapy.

Tumour shrinkage rates were higher in patients who received Avastin, known chemically as bevacizumab - 48% versus 36% for chemotherapy.

Researchers encountered no new or unexpected side effects from Avastin use in cervical cancer, while those that were observed did not significantly diminish patient quality of life.

"Not only did we not find any new side effects, but the overall side effects that we did see were all under 10%, which is considered to be an acceptable trade-off when getting a survival gain," Tewari said.

 

Read Health24’s Comments Policy

Comment on this story
0 comments
Comments have been closed for this article.

Ask the Expert

Cancer expert

CANSA’s purpose is to lead the fight against cancer in South Africa. Its mission is to be the preferred non-profit organisation that enables research, educates the public and provides support to all people affected by cancer. Questions are answered by CANSA’s Head of Health Professor Michael Herbst. For more information, visit cansa.org.za.

Still have a question?

Get free advice from our panel of experts

The information provided does not constitute a diagnosis of your condition. You should consult a medical practitioner or other appropriate health care professional for a physical exmanication, diagnosis and formal advice. Health24 and the expert accept no responsibility or liability for any damage or personal harm you may suffer resulting from making use of this content.

* You must accept our condition

Forum Rules