New research raises fresh questions about which cancer patients benefit from Avastin, a drug that lost its approval for treating breast cancer nearly two years ago.
Avastin did not prolong life when used as a first treatment for people with brain tumors like the one U.S. Sen. Edward Kennedy died of several years ago, two studies found. In one, patients who were expected to benefit the most from Avastin based on genetic testing had the worst survival rates. Side effects also were more common with Avastin.
The drug is approved for treating brain tumors that have recurred for people who already tried chemotherapy or radiation. But that approval was based on studies suggesting it briefly delayed the worsening of the disease. No definitive study shows it helps those patients live longer, either.
Something similar happened with breast cancer: Avastin won the Food and Drug Administration's approval after studies suggested it delayed disease progression. But when later research showed it did not prolong life and brought more side effects, its approval for breast cancer was revoked.
However, many cancer experts say the same thing should not happen now, and that Avastin should retain its approval for brain cancer patients whose disease has recurred.