USA Today reports, cancer patients treated with a combination of the angiogenesis inhibitor Avastin [bevacizumab] and chemotherapy are “50-percent more likely to die from their treatment rather than their disease,” according to a study in the Journal of the American Medical Association.
According to Bloomberg News, “Deadly side effects occurred in 2.5 percent of patients given Avastin, and were 46-percent more common in those getting it in a mix of medicines rather than chemotherapy alone” in the meta-analysis of 16 clinical trials “involving 10,217 patients.” The Wall Street Journal reports the most common causes of death were hemorrhages, neutropenia, and perforations in the stomach or intestines.
The AP points out that it is “still unclear which patients are most likely to benefit” from bevacizumab. “Deaths from Avastin’s side effects are rare and the small risk should be weighed against the drug’s possible benefits,” said senior study author Dr. Shenhong Wu of Stony Brook University Cancer Center in New York. Charlotte Arnold, a spokesperson for Avastin’s maker, Genentech, “said the new analysis is based on known information and includes studies in cancer types for which the drug isn’t approved.” She said the company “supports research to find biomarkers that might reveal which patients may respond to Avastin.”
MedPage Today noted that in an accompanying editorial, University of Michigan oncologist Daniel F. Hayes, MD, “said key to striking a risk-benefit balance with bevacizumab will be the identification of patients who are most likely to benefit. …. ‘Bevacizumab works well, but only in selected patients,’” Dr. Hayes emphasized. HealthDay added that a lung cancer expert, Dr. Roman Perez-Soler of the Montefiore Medical Center in New York City, pointed out that “lung cancer is one of the few malignancies in which Avastin has prolonged survival and thus might still have a place in this armamentarium.”
Meanwhile, the Los Angeles Times “Booster Shots” blog notes that Avastin also “made news in December” when the FDA moved to “begin the process of withdrawing approval of Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer because the federal agency found no evidence that it extended the lives of women who had the disease.” Genentech requested a “hearing appealing” the agency’s proposed withdrawal; and the drug was “still approved for kidney, brain and lung cancers.”
From the American Association for Justice news release.