Combination May Improve Breast Cancer Survival

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University of Pittsburgh Cancer Institute (UPCI) researchers found that the addition of a drug that interferes with the blood supply to a tumor improved PFS (progression free survival) or likelihood of living without the disease progressing in women with breast cancer.

Dr. Adam Brufsky, MD PhD, associate director of clinical investigations at UPCI and director of the Comprehensive Breast Cancer Center at Magee Womens Hospital studied 684 patients at 211 sites in 29 countries. Patients were eligible for the study if they had received one prior treatment for advanced breast cancer and were diagnosed HER-2 negative.

HER-2 is a gene that controls the growth, division and repair of cells. A healthy breast cell has 2 copies of the HER2 gene. Some types of breast cancer are due to a breast cell having more than 2 copies that produce the HER2 protein. This causes the affected cells to grow and divide rapidly. It is not an inherited factor, but more likely a result of aging.

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All women in the study were given standard chemotherapy treatment. Some of the women also received an additional medication called Bevacizumab, also known as Avastin, produced by Genentech Bio-oncology. This inhibits the formation and growth of new blood vessels in the tumor which slows their growth.

The women receiving the combination treatment had an improved survival rate, or at least survival without progression of the disease, according to Dr. Brufsky.

Avastin is also useful in the treatment of metastatic colorectal cancer, non-squamous non-small cell lung cancer, glioblastoma, and metastatic renal cell cancer.

Side effects of Avastin include gastrointestinal perforation (a hole in the stomach or intestine), slow or incomplete wound healing, or severe bleeding.

Source: University of Pittsburg Medical Center, Genentech

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