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Cancer

Anti-Tumor Drug Extends Lung Cancer Patients' Lives

14 years, 8 months ago

1958  0
Posted on Mar 16, 2005, 6 a.m. By Bill Freeman

Avastin, a cancer therapy approved a year ago to treat colon tumors, also helps prolong life in lung cancer patients, the National Cancer Institute announced yesterday. The news is the latest of several recent advances in lung cancer, which kills nearly 164,000 a year in the U.S., more than any other cancer.

Avastin, a cancer therapy approved a year ago to treat colon tumors, also helps prolong life in lung cancer patients, the National Cancer Institute announced yesterday.

The news is the latest of several recent advances in lung cancer, which kills nearly 164,000 a year in the U.S., more than any other cancer.

Avastin, made by Genentech of South San Francisco, belongs to a class of drugs called angiogenesis inhibitors. It was the first approved drug that starves tumors by cutting off the blood supply they need to grow and spread.

Prolonging Life

In a study of nearly 900 patients with advanced disease, adding Avastin to standard chemotherapy helped people live about 20 percent longer, according to the NCI. The drug was given only to patients with non-small cell lung cancer, which includes about 85 percent of cases.

Newly diagnosed patients who got Avastin and chemo lived an average of 12.5 months, while those who received chemo alone lived 10.2 months, according to the NCI study.

Avastin's most serious side effect was serious or even fatal episodes of bleeding from the lung, says Alan Sandler of Vanderbilt University Medical Center, who led the study. That problem may result when the drug "works too well," Sandler says. As Avastin destroys blood vessels in the center of tumors, the tumors cave in, which may damage nearby vessels.

As doctors learn more about this problem, they hope to find ways to prevent it so that more patients can benefit from the drug, Sandler says.

Researchers plan to present more information about such side effects in May at the annual meeting of the American Society of Clinical Oncology.

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