Researchers at the Genentech Inc.'s said that Avastin, a cancer drug may cause trigger a rare brain condition, reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome. This was published in the New England Journal of Medicine.
It was found that two female cancer patients in their 50s treated with Avastin developed reversible posterior leukoencephalopathy syndrome (RPLS). This condition leads to blindness and other complications. Doctors said that both the patients have recovered.
Hal Barron, Genentech's chief medical officer said that his company is investigating a possible third case and is undertaking a review to see whether other patients have signs of the condition. The company also said that it will revise prescription information on the drug, which had $1.13 billion in sales last year.
Avastin is the first drug approved to fight cancer by choking off the blood supply that feeds the tumors. Parameswaran Hari, an assistant professor and oncologist at the Medical College of Wisconsin, in Milwaukee, who treated one of the patients, said that doctors should keep close watch for the syndrome in patients whose blood pressure rises during treatment with Avastin.
This results in the lesion formation in the brain which resembles a stroke leading to permanent vision loss and other complications if not treated immediately. This dangerous brain condition has been previously linked to treatment with chemotherapy and immune-suppressing drugs.