Roche announced today that its product known as Avastin (bevacizumab) has been approved by the European Union for treatment of ovarian cancer. When used in combination with standard chemotherapy (carboplatin and paclitaxel) it will be part of a front-line (first-line following surgery) regime.

Hal Barron M.D., Chief Medical Officer and Head, Global Product Development said :

“Today’s approval of Avastin marks the first major treatment advance in newly diagnosed ovarian cancer in 15 years …

This is the fifth tumor type for which Avastin has been approved in Europe, making it one of the few biologic drugs indicated for multiple cancers.”

Ovarian Cancer is the 8th most common cancer with nearly quarter of a million women diagnosed around the world and around 3 out of 5 of those dying from the disease.

The approval of Avastin marks a major advance in the treatment of ovarian cancer, which until now has only had limited treatment options.

Treatment usually involves removal of the tumor(s) and chemotherapy follow up, but unfortunately, ovarian cancer is a major killer because it’s often diagnosed late and may have already spread.

Avastin has demonstrated in two phase III studies (GOG0218 and ICON7) that women with newly diagnosed advanced ovarian cancer who received Avastin plus chemotherapy and then continued on Avastin alone lived significantly longer without their disease getting worse (progression-free survival) compared to those who received chemotherapy only.

Ovarian cancer is associated with high concentrations of vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein associated with tumor growth and spread. Avastin precisely inhibits VEGF, high levels, which are associated with ascites development (excess fluid in the body cavity), disease worsening, and a poorer prognosis in ovarian cancer patients.

Avastin was originally approved in 2004 for treating colorectal cancer, and became the first anti-angiogenic therapy made widely available for the treatment of patients with an advanced cancer.

Written by Rupert Shepherd