The cancer drug Avastin (bevacizumab) appears able to slow the growth of the most common and deadly form of brain cancer -- gliomas -- and extend patient survival, according to a pilot study conducted at Duke University Medical Center in Durham, N.C.
Avastin is designed to shrink cancerous tumors by cutting off their blood supply. Currently, the drug is used to treat lung and colorectal cancers. This is the first time that Avastin has been tested as a treatment for malignant brain tumors.
Researchers used Avastin in conjunction with a standard chemotherapy drug to treat 32 people with stage III or stage IV recurrent gliomas.
After 12 weeks, tumors shrank by at least 50 percent in 63 percent of the patients. After six months, 38 percent of the patients were progression-free (their tumors had not grown).
The combination of Avastin and chemotherapy halted tumor growth up to twice as long as comparative therapies, the study authors said.
The findings are published in the Feb. 20 issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research. The study received funding from Genentech, the maker of Avastin.
"These results are exciting because of the possible implications for a patient population that currently has the poorest possible prognosis going into treatment, those with malignant brain tumors that have recurred after initial treatment," lead researcher Dr. James Vredenburgh, a brain cancer specialist at Duke's Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center, said in a prepared statement.
Duke is currently participating in a large, multi-center study of Avastin to confirm the results of this pilot study.
(Health Scout News)