Kennedy's Options for Treating Brain Cancer
From Vaccines to New Drugs, Novel Strategies Are Extending Lives of Some Patients
WebMD News Archive
Experimental Vaccine Improves Survival continued...
"The data are very striking, but it's very preliminary," says Gilbert, who
participated in the research. He notes that to qualify for the study, there has
to be no signs of tumor regrowth on an imaging scan after surgery, radiation,
"The problem with glioblastoma is that some patients do very well and some
do very poorly. By definition, the patients in this study are good-prognosis
patients in that they had no signs of tumor growth after standard therapy. So
until the larger head-to-head comparison is done, we can't say with certainly
that the vaccine extends lives," he tells WebMD.
Avastin for Recurrent Glioma
Another possibility is adding the targeted cancer drug Avastin to standard
Avastin prevents tumors from growing new blood vessels, thereby choking them
to death. It is approved to treat metastatic breast cancer as well as
metastatic colorectal cancer and advanced lung cancer.
A study revealed at the ASCO meeting this week involved 167 people with
glioblastoma who suffered a recurrence after standard treatment. They face a
worse prognosis than people with newly diagnosed brain cancer.
The study was funded by Genentech, which makes Avastin.
Results showed that the median overall survival time was 9.2 months in those
who received Avastin alone and 8.7 months in those who got Avastin plus the
chemo drug with Camptosar.
The most common severe side effects were high blood pressure and
convulsions, similar to those observed in other studies of Avastin.
"This is better than anything we have tried before for this group of
patients," says researcher Timothy Cloughesy, MD, director of the
neuro-oncology division at UCLA.
Based on the results, doctors hope to launch a study of Avastin in newly
diagnosed patients in the fall, Gilbert says.
But even before then, doctors can prescribe the drug "off-label" -- that is,
for purposes other than its FDA-approved uses -- for patients with newly
diagnosed brain cancer if they think it will help, doctors say.
Boosting Temodar's Dosage
Massachusetts General Hospital, where Kennedy is scheduled to have his
follow-up treatment, is participating in a study designed to see "whether
giving more Temodar over a longer period of time can make these cancers even
more treatable and further improve survival," Gilbert says.