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Avastin Falls Short In Treatment Of Ovarian Cancer

Cancer-fighter Avastin just came up short as a treatment for ovarian tumors.

Two studies found that the drug, which blocks the formation of new blood vessels, didn't extend the lives of patients with ovarian cancer.

Avastin did slow the progression of the cancers a little bit. But the patients getting Avastin as part of treatment with several medicines had more side effects, including blood clots and high blood pressure, than the people who didn't get it.

Sound familiar? The Food and Drug Administration recently withdrew the approval for Avastin as a treatment for breast cancer concluding, in the words of Commissioner Margaret Hamburg, that "there is no benefit to breast cancer patients that would justify its risks."

As it happens, Roche's Genentech unit, maker of the Avastin, just got approval from European regulators for use of the drug in treating advanced ovarian cancer.

But after talking things over with the Food and Drug Administration Genentech isn't rushing to do the same in the U.S., the Associated Press reports. "We do not believe the data will support approval," a Genentech spokeswoman told the AP. Still, the company hasn't made a final decision.

Despite these setbacks, Avastin remains a stalwart in the treatment of colorectal and lung cancer. The drug, which can cost up $100,000 for a year of treatment, is also approved in the U.S. for brain and kidney cancers.

The studies, published in the latest New England Journal of Medicine, can be found here and here.

Copyright 2011 National Public Radio. To see more, visit


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