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Cancer Drug Avastin Makes Inroads Against Ovarian Tumors
Date:6/5/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

SATURDAY, June 4 (HealthDay News) -- Two new studies indicate that a common cancer drug, Avastin, may benefit both early stage ovarian cancer patients and women whose cancer has recurred.

In both studies, presented Saturday at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology in Chicago, Avastin (bevacizumab) was added to standard chemotherapy.

But the high cost of Avastin (as much as $6,000 a month) could be prohibitive, especially given that other therapeutic options are available to women in each group, said Dr. Kristine Zanotti, a gynecologic oncologist with University Hospitals of Cleveland.

"This is interesting but not practice-changing," she said. Zanotti was not involved with the research.

According to the American Cancer Society, ovarian cancer is the fifth most common cancer among women, but it is especially deadly because it is often caught too late for effective treatment. Nearly 14,000 American women died of ovarian cancer in 2010, the cancer society said.

The first of the two studies tracked 484 women whose ovarian malignancies had recurred but who had a relatively good prognosis based on their response to earlier chemotherapy.

Participants were randomly chosen to receive standard chemotherapy alone or chemotherapy plus Avastin. The Avastin (or placebo in the placebo arm) treatment was continued after the end of chemotherapy until the disease returned, at which point it was stopped.

After two years, investigators saw a 52 percent reduction in the risk of a recurrence, or 12.4 months in those patients taking Avastin, compared to 8.4 months in the standard chemo-alone group.

Almost 80 percent of women receiving Avastin saw their tumors shrink, compared to 57 percent of those receiving chemotherapy alone. The tumors in the Avastin group also stayed smaller for longer, the research team noted.

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