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Lung Cancer Health Center

FDA OKs Drug for Advanced Lung Cancer

Avastin Already Approved for Treating Colorectal Cancer
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WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

Oct. 12, 2006 -- The FDA has approved the colon cancer drug Avastin for use with chemotherapy in treating advanced lung cancer.

Avastin may now be used with the chemo drugs carboplatin and paclitaxel as an initial treatment for advanced cases of non-squamous, non-small cell lung cancer.

Lung cancer is the leading cause of cancer death for U.S. men and women.

Non-small cell lung cancer is the most common type of lung cancer. It accounts for three out of four of the 174,400 new cases of lung cancer that are expected to be diagnosed this year, according to the FDA.

"[The] FDA believes it is crucial for cancer patients to have many treatment options available to them in their battle against this disease," says the FDA's Richard Pazdur, MD, in the FDA news release.

"With the approval of Avastin, patients with this type of lung cancer will not only have access to another treatment option, but one that has been shown in clinical trials to increase survival time," Pazdur says.

Avastin Starves Tumors

Avastin, which is given intravenously, is not a new drug.

The FDA first approved it in February 2004 for use in combination with chemotherapy to treat metastatic colorectal cancer (cancer that has spread beyond the colon or rectum).

Avastin is believed to target a growth factor called VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor). By blocking the action of VEGF, Avastin hampers the growth of new blood vessels that bring blood to tumors.

Basically, the strategy is to deprive tumors of their blood supply, thereby starving them. Such drugs are called angiogenesis inhibitors.

Avastin is made by Genentech.

Extended Survival

Avastin plus chemotherapy "is the first therapy in 10 years to improve on standard first-line treatment for advanced lung cancer and the first FDA approved therapy ever to extend survival for these patients beyond one year in a large, randomized clinical study," Alan Sandler, MD, says in Genentech's news release.

Sandler headed the study upon which the FDA based Avastin's new approval. He is the director of medical thoracic oncology at Vanderbilt-Ingram Cancer Center in Nashville, Tenn.

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