These patients were given the drug every three weeks along with standard chemotherapy, for up to six cycles. Patients were then treated with Avastin alone until the cancer began to progress ("maintenance" therapy).
The researchers reported few clinically significant adverse events, meaning that most were no greater than what one would expect in the general population. One percent of patients experienced bleeding in the lungs and 4 percent had bleeding, Crino's group found.
Overall, 3 percent of the patients died due to adverse events associated with Avastin. These included 1 percent who had blood clots and 1 percent who suffered bleeding.
Other serious adverse events associated with Avastin were blood clots in the lungs and nosebleeds, low white blood cell counts, fever along with a low white blood cell count and deep vein thrombosis (DVT), all of which occurred in 1 percent of the patients.
Dr. Robert Pirker, from the department of medicine at the Medical University of Vienna in Austria, and author of an accompanying journal editorial, said that Avastin "can be safely given when certain precautions are taken."
However, several issues remain to be determined, including the optimal dose and the role of maintenance therapy with Avastin, he said.
"In addition, it is unknown whether bevacizumab [Avastin] increases survival when added to cisplatin-based chemotherapy in patients with advanced non-squamous non-small-cell lung cancer," Pirker said.
Overall, Avastin, like several other targeted agents have led to therapeutic advances in lung cancer, he added. "Hurdles in clinical development do occur but -- as shown for bevacizumab -- can be overcome," Pirker said.
Another expert, Dr. Norman H. Edelman, chief medical officer at the American Lung Associa
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