Avastin Slows Colon Cancer Growth
An anticancer drug that starves tumors of a blood supply can help delay progression in patients with advanced colon cancer.
Jan. 23, 2007 (Orlando) -- An anticancer drug that starves tumors of a blood
supply can help delay progression in patients with advanced colon cancer.
In a study of more than 1,400 patients, those who took the drug Avastin in
addition to standard chemotherapy remained alive without worsening of their
disease about one-and-one-half months longer than those with chemotherapy
alone, says researcher Leonard B. Saltz, MD, a member of the Gastrointestinal
Oncology Service at Memorial Sloan-Kettering Cancer Center in New York
While an extra month or two might not sound like much, the tens of thousands
of people whose colon cancer has started to spread throughout their body face a
fairly bleak outlook.
In the study, those given standard chemotherapy alone remained
progression-free for an average of only eight months.
In contrast, cancer didn’t progress for nearly nine-and-a-half months when
Avastin was added to the treatment.
“Avastin controls the cancer longer,” Saltz tells WebMD. “It’s a modest
advance, but an advance.”
Neal J. Meropol, MD, director of the Gastrointestinal Cancer Program at Fox
Chase Cancer Center in Philadelphia, says many doctors are already offering the
drug to patients with advanced disease.
“The study validates the use of Avastin as a component of front-line therapy
with [standard] chemotherapy for metastatic colon cancer,” he tells WebMD.
Cancer's Comeback Delayed
The study, one of the largest ever conducted in people with metastatic
colorectal cancer, was presented here at the 2007 Gastrointestinal Cancer
All study participants were given one of two standard chemotherapy
treatments, either Xeloda plus Eloxatin -- or a combination of 5-FU,
leucovorin, and Eloxatin.
Then, half were also given Avastin.
Saltz's group is still analyzing the data to determine whether Avastin
actually extends lives.
He expects to present those findings in June at the annual meeting of the
American Society of Clinical Oncology.
Drug Cuts off Blood Supply
Avastin -- which is also approved to treat advanced lung cancer -- was the
first of a new kind of cancer therapies that work by cutting off the blood to a
This starves the tumor, slowing or even stopping tumor growth in its
Side effects in the study were due primarily to the Eloxatin-based
chemotherapy and included pain, numbness and tingling, lowered resistance to
infection, fatigue, and diarrhea.
While other studies have linked Avastin to an increased risk of potentially
fatal blood clots, there was no difference in the number of people who
developed clots in the Avastin and non-Avastin-groups.
Nevertheless, the drug should be avoided by people with a history of blood
clots and those who have suffered a heart attack or stroke, Saltz says.