A large clinical trial of Avastin, an anti-angiogenic therapy has concluded that a new 'one-two punch' therapy that utilizes the drug in combination with chemotherapy, results in slowing down the progression of recurrent breast cancer.
The study discovered that Avastin in combination with chemotherapy significantly extends progression-free survival for women with breast cancer as compared to chemotherapy.
The study, led by Dr. Melody Cobleigh, director of the Coleman Foundation Comprehensive Breast Center at Rush University Medical Center, showed that the inhibition of the growth of blood vessels that supplies tumors slows down the progression of metastatic breast cancer.
The study, involving 722 women with recurrent (metastatic) breast cancer, discovered that in the women who received Avastin in combination with standard chemotherapy, the delay in worsening of their cancer was doubled by almost five months compared to patients treated with chemotherapy alone.
However, those on Avastin had progression-free survival of 11.3 months compared to 6 months on standard chemotherapy alone.
"This therapy is a one-two punch! You hit the tumor with the chemo and sabotage new blood vessel growth by restricting its oxygen supply with Avastin. This is a noteworthy advance in cancer treatment," said Cobleigh.
Avastin is a therapeutic antibody designed to specifically inhibit vascular endothelial growth factor (VEGF), a protein that plays a pivotal role in angiogenesis and the maintenance of existing blood vessels throughout the tumor's lifecycle.
By blocking VEGF, Avastin is designed to interfere with the blood supply to a tumor, which is critical to a tumor's ability to grow and spread in the body.
Researchers found that Avastin not only slowed the growth of the tumor, but also doubled the remission rate (the shrinkage of tumors by 50 percent or more) as compared to chemotherapy alone.
However, with chemotherapy, 25 percent of tumors responded and with the combination of chemotherapy and bevacizumab, 49 percent did so.
The team now plans to study the drug in the adjuvant setting to find out if it can help in decreasing the risk of cancer recurrence.
"The tumor can't grow bigger than the size of a sesame seed without an oxygen supply. And patients can stay on Avastin as long at it works. It is not a chemotherapy drug so it has minimal toxicity," said Cobleigh.
The study is published in the recent issue of the New England Journal of Medicine.