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More Evidence Links Avastin to Heart Failure in Breast Cancer Patients
Date:1/4/2011

By Amanda Gardner
HealthDay Reporter

TUESDAY, Jan. 4 (HealthDay News) -- Just weeks after U.S. health officials moved to rescind approval of the drug Avastin to treat breast cancer, a new study provides more evidence that the anti-cancer medication ups the odds of congestive heart failure in these patients.

The meta-analysis, published online Jan. 4 in the Journal of Clinical Oncology, included almost 4,000 patients and found a small but significant number developed heart failure.

Last month, the U.S. Food and Drug Administration announced plans to revoke approval of bevacizumab (Avastin) for treating breast cancer, although not for other indications. The move was based on evidence that the drug doesn't prolong overall survival in breast cancer patients and poses a risk of serious side effects.

"What we see with Avastin in terms of its cardiac toxicity, frankly, it's not that unusual in cancer chemotherapy," said Dr. William Abraham, a heart failure specialist and director of cardiovascular medicine at Ohio State University Medical Center in Columbus, who is familiar with the study. "It turns out that many of the systemic anti-cancer treatments have detrimental effects on the cardiovascular system."

According to Abraham, Avastin actually was less likely to cause heart failure than some other widely used breast cancer drugs, in particular the class of chemotherapy agents known as anthracyclines. But the FDA's decision was based on the totality of evidence, he said, citing possible side effects such as perforations of the nose, stomach and intestine; high blood pressure; and heart failure.

The damage caused by Avastin appears to be reversible after the drug is stopped. Damage from anthracyclines is not, according to the study, conducted by researchers at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute and Harvard Medical School in Boston.

In this new review of studies, which included 3,784 patients, 1
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