TUESDAY, Dec. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Adding the pricey cancer drug Avastin to standard chemotherapy for earlier-stage colon cancer does not extend patients' lives, a new clinical trial finds.
Avastin, known generically as bevacizumab, is approved in the United States to treat advanced-stage colon cancer that has spread to distant sites in the body -- what doctors call metastatic cancer.
Other research has shown that adding Avastin to standard drugs can extend those patients' lives by a few months.
The new trial was set up to see whether the drug could also help patients with earlier-stage cancer, explained lead researcher Dr. Carmen Allegra, chief of hematology and oncology at the University of Florida, in Gainesville.
He and his colleagues found no evidence that the expensive drug -- priced at around $5,000 per month -- kept patients in remission longer or lengthened their lives.
Doctors not involved in the study said it added to evidence that Avastin is of no use to patients with earlier-stage, curable colon cancer.
"I think it's time to move on," said Dr. Jennifer Obel, a medical oncologist with the NorthShore University Health System in suburban Chicago.
The study, reported online Dec. 10 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included 2,673 patients who'd had surgery for stage 2 or stage 3 colon cancer -- meaning the tumor was either confined to the colon or had spread no farther than the lymph nodes.
All of the patients were getting "adjuvant," or follow-up, chemotherapy to hopefully take care of any remaining tumor cells and cut the odds of a recurrence.
Allegra's team randomly assigned half of the patients to receive six months of standard chemotherapy -- a three-drug regimen of fluorouracil, leucovorin and oxaliplatin. The other half received that therapy, plus Avastin for one year.
In the end, the addition of Avastin made
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