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Avastin May Be Helpful Before Breast Cancer Surgery
Date:1/25/2012

By Serena Gordon
HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Jan. 25 (HealthDay News) -- The addition of the cancer-fighting medication Avastin to chemotherapy prior to breast cancer surgery increases the chance that all of the cancer will be removed, according to new research.

However, when looking at which patients might benefit the most from this therapy, two recent studies found conflicting results, and neither study was yet able to address whether or not the addition of Avastin (bevacizumab) early in the treatment process would improve survival rates.

Information on survival will be especially important for defining Avastin's role in early breast cancer treatment. That's because in November 2011, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) revoked Avastin's approval for the treatment of breast cancer that has spread to other parts of the body. With metastatic breast cancers, the agency felt the survival benefits were lacking, and the drug carries significant risks. Avastin is, however, still FDA-approved as a treatment for some metastatic colon, brain, kidney and lung cancers.

"The bevacizumab story is not done. The addition of Avastin to neoadjuvant chemotherapy in women with operable breast cancer increased the rate of women having the disappearance of their breast cancer at the time of surgery," said Dr. Harry Bear, lead author of one of the new studies.

"With more follow-up of these trials and several others, we may find that bevacizumab actually does increase the cure rate. But, it may not be for all breast cancers; it may just be for some," said Bear, a professor and chairman of the division of surgical oncology at Virginia Commonwealth University's Massey Cancer Center in Richmond.

Results of the studies are published in the Jan. 26 edition of the New England Journal of Medicine.

Bear's study included 1,206 women who had been diagnosed with breast cancer. None of the women had yet ha
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