A widely used cancer drug can help women with ovarian cancer live longer, according to a new European study. Roche’s Avastin (bevacizumab) is already used for the treatment of various cancers including bowel, breast and lung cancers.
A study of about 1,800 women presented during the European Society for Medical Oncology (ESMO) congress showed that the drug extended progression-free survival in women with advanced ovarian cancer to 14.1 months when taken in addition to chemotherapy versus 10.3 months with chemotherapy alone.
Avastin works by inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), which is thought to play a role in disease progression. It was the first drug to fight cancer by starving tumors of nutrients. Researchers had originally hoped this “targeted therapy” would lead to the elimination of chemotherapy, however it is now used in combination with chemotherapy.
Roche took a hit in August when a Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel recommended the drug be discontinued as a breast cancer treatment because the company research didn’t prove to be “clinically meaningful” to women, arguing that data showed that the drug did not increase the life spans of women with advanced breast cancer, but instead put them at risk for serious side effects. Roche argued that the drug was of value to breast cancer patients because it improved quality of life.
Avastin brought in more than $6 billion from worldwide sales in 2009. Losing the breast cancer indication could have a hearty impact on sales, but adding ovarian cancer to its uses could recover another $500 million to $1 billion in sales.