A National Cancer Institute clinical trial conducted at the Peggy and Charles Stephenson Cancer Center and other sites in the U.S. and Spain brings new hope to patients with advanced cervical cancer in the form of a life-extending treatment option.
The Stephenson Cancer Center was one of the top two enrolling sites for the clinical trial that involved 452 patients.
The study evaluated the drug Avastin (bevacizumab) in women with recurrent, persistent or metastatic cervical cancer that was not curable with standard treatments. The research showed Avastin significantly improved overall survival when added to either of two chemotherapy regimens.
"Cervical cancer patients who got the standard chemotherapy had a median survival of 13.3 months," said Dr. Lisa M. Landrum, a gynecologic oncologist and researchers with the Stephenson Cancer Center. "Those who had standard chemotherapy with the Avastin lived almost four months longer - with a median survival of 17 months."
In fact, the NCI decided to announce interim findings from the study because they were considered so statistically significant.
"Four months, when you are talking about 17 months, is a very big statistical increase. This might be a chance to see a wedding or a graduation - to share one of the pivotal events a person has in their lifetime," Landrum said.
Avastin works by blocking the blood supply that feeds cancer tumors. Although already FDA approved for use in the treatment of some types of cancer, it is not yet approved for cervical cancer. Avastin is also expensive and without FDA approval, insurance companies may not cover the cost. So it remains mainly available to cervical cancer patients who are willing to participate in clinical trials.
"Patients who are interested should always ask their doctors for the opportunity to participate in clinical trials in which the drug and related care is typically provided free of charge to participants," Landrum said.
Side effects of Avastin typically relate to impeding the blood supply, said Landrum. For example, wound healing might be poor or patients might tend to form blood clots. Some might also be more prone to hypertensive events.
Future research will likely determine if the addition of Avastin to other chemotherapeutic therapies can further lengthen survival.
To learn more about clinical trials at the Stephenson Cancer Center, visit www.oumedicine.com/cancer.
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