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Bevacizumab, brand name Avastin®, is a drug that is used to treat certain kinds of cancers, including ovarian cancer and breast cancer. It is an antiangiogenic medicine, which means that it works by stopping or reducing the creation of blood vessels. This prevents the growth of tumors by denying them the blood they need in order to grow. The drug has gained approval in the U.S. for use in treating several types of cancer, but as of 2011 ovarian cancer is not among those treated in this way.
In a U.S. clinical trial it was found that using bevacizumab for ovarian cancer during chemotherapy and for a full year afterward stopped the growth of the cancer for an average of less than four months. A study based on the results of the trial concluded that Avastin® is not cost-effective as a therapy for primary ovarian cancer. The study concluded that the drug's limited benefit provided did not justify the high cost involved. A report recommending against the use of this medicine for ovarian cancer was made to the European Society of Clinical Oncology in the fall of 2010 based on a separate trial with similar results.
If the cancer is a result of metastasis from primary colon or rectal cancer, however, then using bevacizumab for ovarian cancer has been shown to have better results. A secondary or metastatic cancer has the same type of cancer cells as the primary location. This means that using bevacizumab for ovarian cancer that started in the colon produces different results than it does on primary ovarian cancer, since the secondary cancer cells have different characteristics.
There are other concerns about using bevacizumab for ovarian cancer. A report made to the Society of Gynecologic Oncologists in 2010 indicated that the drug doubled the risk of gastrointestinal complications such as perforations and hemorrhages. The women in the study had just been diagnosed and were treated with Avastin® as well as other types of chemotherapy. Risk level was increased even more for women with a history of significant problems with their bowels.
Ultimately, using this drug can be of some help, but it is not likely to be used very often. Patients should understand not only the cost factors, but also the level of risk involved with using Avastin®, in order to make an informed decision. This drug is considered best used only on secondary ovarian cancer, where it may be applied with good results.
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