The cancer drug Avastin extends progression-free survival by 39% in ovarian cancer patients, a significant improvement in a cancer that has proved extremely difficult to treat.
Some oncologists are already using Avastin — which is widely and successfully used for lung, colon and breast tumors — to treat ovarian cancer that has recurred, but such use has never been formally studied. The new study, reported Sunday at a Chicago meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology, is also the first to use the drug as first-line therapy for ovarian cancer.
Ovarian cancer is the eighth most common cancer among American women, striking an estimated 22,000 women each year, and the fifth most deadly, killing 15,000. Conventional chemotherapy uses the powerful drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel, which can have severe side effects.
Avastin, in contrast, is targeted at a naturally occurring protein called vascular endothelial growth factor, which is overproduced in many cancers and stimulates the growth of new blood vessels that nourish the tumor. That targeting means it has fewer potential side effects and thus represents an improvement in therapy for ovarian cancer, said Dr. Robert A. Burger of the Fox Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, who led the new study.