The European Commission approved the drug for newly diagnosed ovarian cancers but the U.S Food and Drug Administration has yet to follow suit and approve the medication for use in newly diagnosed cases.
Avastin has not been shown to prolong life, but it does offer hope for treating the disease by slowing progression of the tumor and providing additional time from diagnosis to the advanced stages when the disease and symptoms are much worse.
Ovarian cancer is not often found in the early stages and is typically quite advanced by the time it has been diagnosed. The survival rate for most women with ovarian cancer is not normally very good after diagnosis unless it is caught in the early stages – this is why the Avastin drug offers hope to slow the progression of the disease. The disease normally has spread from the ovaries into other tissue or organs by this time.
Ovarian cancer affects nearly a quarter of a million women worldwide with a fatality rate of over one hundred thousand. The United States demographics estimate about 15,000 annual deaths alone. This cancer is difficult because surgical intervention is only partially effective and the cancer has usually spread to other areas of the body.
Avastin shows promise to lengthen the quality of life for patients for an additional three months or so – a significant amount of time for a disease so invasive and difficult to treat.
The studies suggest that the combination of Avastin and other therapies for ovarian cancer might provide a welcome improvement in the traditional methodologies used to treat the disease. The drug interferes with the growth of cancer cells and when used with chemotherapy can help prevent the tumor from growing and spreading.
The drug has been approved for use in a number of cancers including lung, brain and colon. Researchers are hopeful because progression-free survival — notably, the length of time before the cancer worsens — increased by about three to four months.
So while the studies have documented notable side effects, the hope is that the progression of the disease to the advanced stages can be slowed and that the combination of therapies to include the drug can offer increased benefits to the victims of ovarian cancer.