Adding Avastin Improved Cervical Cancer Survival

Cervical cancer survival improved when bevacizumab was added to chemoradiation

(RxWiki News) Pap smears have dramatically reduced cervical cancer rates in the US, but this cancer remains a huge problem for women around the world. A new study found a way to help cervical cancer patients live longer.

Women with locally advanced cervical cancer lived longer when Avastin (bevacizumab) was added to standard therapy, a small phase ll study found.

The researchers suggested that if further study confirms these results, Avastin may become more commonly used to treat metastatic cervical cancer.

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Tracey Schefter, MD, investigator at the University of Colorado Cancer Center and director of the Stereotactic Body Radiation Therapy program at the University of Colorado School of Medicine, led this study that evaluated the effectiveness of adding Avastin to the standard therapy for cervical cancer, which is chemotherapy and radiation given at the same time.

Nearly half a million (473,000) women around the world are diagnosed with cervical cancer each year. Since the introduction of the Pap smear, cervical cancer incidence in the US has dropped 74 percent over the last five decades. Still, about 12,500 women in this country are expected to be diagnosed with cervical cancer this year, and about 4,000 women will die from the disease.

Avastin is currently used to treat a number of different cancers including brain tumors and colorectal and kidney cancers.

A particular protein — VEGF (vascular endothelial growth factor) — that helps cancer cells grow is common in cervical cancer. Avastin attacks the VEGF molecule.

This phase ll trial evaluated if adding Avastin to traditional regimens extended life for women whose cervical cancer had already begun to metastasize (spread). Most of the 49 patients in the trial (63 percent) had stage llB cancer.

Trial participants received 10 mg/kg of Avastin every two weeks for three cycles during the same period they were receiving once weekly chemotherapy, standard pelvic radiation and brachytherapy (radioactive seeds implanted internally). The women were followed for a median of just under four years.

The five-year survival rate for women with stage llB cervical cancer is 58 percent, according to the American Cancer Society. The three-year survival rate for women in this study was 81 percent and disease-free survival, during which the disease does not get worse, was 69 percent.

“In this study, bevacizumab in combination with standard pelvic chemoradiation for locally advanced cervical cancer showed efficacy results that are promising and warrant further investigation,” the authors of this study wrote.

"Cervical cancer is a global disease and any improvements to current treatment will save lives," said Dr. Subhakar "Sub" Mutyala, Associate Director of the Baylor Scott & White Cancer Institute and Associate Professor at Texas A&M College of Medicine in Temple, Texas. "Potentially, the addition of Avastin could lead to better cervical cancer treatments which will cure more women of this disease."

Dr. Schefter said in a statement that a trial should be conducted to evaluate the effectiveness of Avastin given both during active treatment and as a maintenance therapy.

This National Cancer Institute-supported study was published in the January issue of the International Journal of Radiation Oncology, Biology and Physics.

No conflicts of interest were reported.

Review Date: 
January 24, 2014