The addition of targeted therapy Avastin (bevacizumab) with chemotherapy can significantly lengthen the lives of women with advanced cervical cancer by close to 30%, according to research presented at the 2013 American Society of Clinical Oncology Congress.
More than 3,000 women in the UK are diagnosed with cervical cancer annually, while 1,000 will die from it. Cervical cancer is normally treated with surgery, radiotherapy, and chemotherapy. If the cancer is detected early and treated promptly, the prognosis is generally good.
Screening and vaccination against the human papilloma virus is crucial in preventing cervical cancer altogether, as well as keeping it from reaching an advanced stage if it does develop. For those patients who are diagnosed at an advanced stage, it becomes harder to treat the disease.
The research presented from this study is known as GOG 240. GOG 240 is an independent, National Cancer Institute (NCI) -sponsored phase III trail examining the effectiveness and safety of Avastin with chemotherapy (paclitaxel and topotecan or cisplatin) to treat women with recurrent, persistent, or advanced cervical cancer (stage IVb), that was not cured by standard treatment methods.
The study consisted of 452 women in the U.S. and Spain who were randomly assigned to one of four treatment schedules:
- paclitaxel and cisplatin
- paclitaxel, cisplatin and Avastin (15 mg/kg every three weeks)
- paclitaxel and topocetan
- paclitaxel, topotecan and Avastin
The research revealed that the women who underwent combination treatment with chemotherapy and Avastin lived almost 30% longer, and when compared to those who were just treated with chemotherapy alone: the median overall survival was of 17 months compared to 13.3 months, respectively.
Also, the percentage of patients who responded positively to therapy increased by a third from 36% to 48%. The participants who received bevacizumab had more side effects than those who did not, however, these side effects were consistent with those previously known to be linked to bevacizumab.
Professor Stan Kaye, Head of Clinical Studies at The Institute of Cancer Research, London, and Consultant Medical Oncologist in the Gynaecology Unit at The Royal Marsden Hospital, said:
“The improvements in overall survival achieved for women with advanced cervical cancer treated with Avastin are extremely encouraging. Thousands of women are diagnosed with cervical cancer every year in the UK and for those with recurrent disease there is a desperate need for more treatment options.”
Bevacizumab has a well-confirmed tolerability profile with the most frequently seen adverse effects in clinical trials listed as:
- proteinuria (abnormal amount of protein in the blood
These side effects are generally easy to take care of. The study did not find any new adverse effects. Bevacizumab was also associated with higher rates of grade 3 bleeding, thrombosis embolism, and gastrointestinal fistula.
Robert Music, Director of Jo’s Cervical Cancer Trust, said:
“For women who receive a late stage diagnosis of cervical cancer the prognosis can often be poor. The results of this research look promising and if this work can go some way in improving outcomes and overall survival rates in women with advanced cervical cancer then that is a positive step.”
Bevacizumab is not currently licensed for the treatment of advanced cervical cancer.
Avastin is approved for four different types of cancers in the United States: mCRC (metastatic Colorectal Cancer), NSCLC (Non-Small Cell Lung Cancer), rGBM (recurrent Glioblastoma Multiforme) and RCC (Renal Cell Cancer).
In 2011, the FDA removed the approval of Avastin for the treatment of breast cancer. The regulating body explained that Avastin is not effective or safe for that type of cancer.
Written by Kelly Fitzgerald