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Cancer Drug Avastin Linked to Death Risk

Study Shows Risk of Dying Higher With Avastin Than Chemo Alone; Drugmaker Criticizes Study’s Methods

Advice to Patients

Patients diagnosed with the cancers Avastin is approved to treat are often told they have a limited amount of time to live, and in that context, a medication that can extend their life for a short time or even simply maintain their quality of life can be a precious glimmer of hope.

Wu says he tries to carefully select the patients he puts on Avastin and he tries to help them understand that taking it is a gamble.

“Normally, I explain to them the risk of this treatment, including the very bad risks that people may die from this treatment,” Wu says. “I also explain to them the potential benefits of treatment.”

“If we watch them very carefully, it is a reasonably safe drug,” he says.

When the cost is considered, however, the picture gets more complicated.

“Available data suggest that [Avastin] is biologically active in most but not all solid tumors,” writes Daniel Hayes, MD, an oncologist who treats breast cancer at the University of Michigan Comprehensive Cancer Center, in his editorial on the study.

“However, the benefits of extended adjuvant [Avastin] in unselected populations may not be justified by the modest disease-free survival and questionable overall survival benefits reported thus far.”

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