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New Combo Treatment Extends Kidney Cancer Survival

Avastin plus interferon almost doubled patients' time without disease progression, study found

FRIDAY, Dec 21 (HealthDay News) -- A combination treatment with two drugs, Avastin (bevacizumab) plus interferon, extends the life of patients with kidney cancer, European researchers report.

"Based on the result of earlier trials, there is already considerable enthusiasm to use bevacizumab as a new drug for treating kidney cancer patients," noted Dr. Mayer Fishman, an assistant professor in the department of interdisciplinary oncology at the Moffitt Cancer Center of the University of South Florida in Tampa. He was not involved in the study.

Publication of large trials such as this can be expected to support the more widespread use of new drugs such as bevacizumab for kidney cancer therapy, Fishman said.

The study was funded by F. Hoffmann-La Roche Ltd., the maker of Avastin. It is published in the Dec. 22/29 issue of The Lancet.

In a phase III trial, Dr. Bernard Escudier from the Institute Gustave Roussy in Villejuif, France, and colleagues randomly assigned 649 patients with kidney cancer to receive Avastin and interferon or interferon plus a placebo.

Among those receiving combined therapy, 114 died compared with 137 of those receiving interferon alone. Moreover, patients taking Avastin plus interferon survived without any signs of disease progression for an average of 10.2 months. That's almost double the 5.4-month average progression-free survival for those on interferon alone.

"This treatment [bevacizumab plus interferon] is clearly comparable with the most active treatment, and with a very good safety profile, will provide new options for renal cancer patients," Escudier's group concluded.

As more and more targeted drugs are developed, and as more combinations are possible, and as immune treatments become more sophisticated, "optimism is building that we will see more and more substantial impacts on kidney cancer treatment," Fishman said.

"This can result in better survival and better quality of life for survivors. On the other hand, with more and more drugs and combinations, it may become harder to see the impact of an individual drug," he added.

Another expert lauded the paper.

"This article provides another outstanding example of how a greater understanding of the biology of kidney cancer can lead to successful treatments that delay tumor growth," said Dr. James Brugarolas, an assistant professor in the division of oncology at the Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center at the University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas.

"An important question that remains to be addressed is whether bevacizumab alone would offer similar benefit with respect to slowing down tumor progression as the bevacizumab/interferon combination, with perhaps less toxicity," Brugarolas said.

More information

For more on kidney cancer, visit the U.S. National Cancer Institute.

SOURCES: Mayer Fishman, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, department of interdisciplinary oncology, Moffitt Cancer Center, University of South Florida, Tampa; James Brugarolas, M.D., Ph.D., assistant professor, division of oncology, Simmons Comprehensive Cancer Center, University of Texas Southwestern Medical Center at Dallas; Dec. 22/29, 2007, The Lancet

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