Bear said a number of factors could explain these seemingly conflicting findings. The differences may have something to do with the women involved in each study, he said. Some of the women in the German study had more advanced cancers. And, the chemotherapy regimens weren't the same, he explained.
Commenting on the findings, Dr. Len Lichtenfeld, deputy chief medical officer for the American Cancer Society, said that "these studies suggest that for certain patients, there may be a benefit to using Avastin prior to surgery for breast cancer."
However, Lichtenfeld added, "what we don't know from these studies is which women would benefit the most, and we don't have the long-term follow-up on these women to see if the survival or the course of the disease is improved."
Both Lichtenfeld and Bear acknowledged that because Avastin isn't FDA-approved for the treatment of breast cancers, insurance companies may be reluctant to pay for these treatments outside of a clinical trial setting.
"There still remain significant questions about the benefits of using Avastin in breast cancer," Lichtenfeld pointed out. "There is an increased risk of side effects, and there's a cost to adding this treatment. Based on these two studies, it's difficult to say whether any particular women should consider this treatment. As with many similar research findings, it's important to talk to your own doctor to get a better understanding of your potential risks and benefits," he added.
To learn more about Avastin, visit the U.S. National Library of Medicine.
SOURCES: Harry D. Bear, M.D., professor and chair, division of surgical oncology, Massey Cancer Center, Virginia Commonwealth University, Richmond; Len Lichtenfel
All rights reserved