A cancer-fighting drug called bevacizumab, also known as Avastin, has offered hope to patients suffering from hereditary hemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT), an inherited vascular condition characterized by profuse nosebleeds.
"Bevacizumab is a drug used to treat cancers and eye disorders by restricting the growth of abnormal blood vessels," said Terence M. Davidson, professor of surgery and director of the UC San Diego Nasal Dysfunction Clinic.
"The experimental intranasal application of bevacizumab by injection or spray has produced excellent results for patients at UC San Diego Medical Center," Davidson added.
HHT, also known as Osler Weber Rendu, is a genetic disease characterized by a malformation of the small blood vessels.
This condition presents itself as small red or purple blister-like spots inside the nose and mouth and on body extremities such as the lips, ears, and fingertips.
The most notable symptom is recurrent heavy nosebleeds affecting 50-80 percent of patients.
These nose bleeds can occur several times a day, lasting minutes to hours and often requiring frequent trips to the emergency room. For many, repeat blood transfusion is a way of life.
In a 2009 study, Davidson determined the effectiveness of treating HHT-related bloody noses with a KTP laser cauterization and nasal injection of 100 mgs. of bevacizumab.
Eighty percent of patients who received the drug and laser treatment reported an 80 percent improvement in nasal health compared to 56 percent in the laser group alone.
The benefit of laser alone generally lasted four to six months, and of the laser with the Avastin, up to two years.
A recent case study was published in the February 2010 edition of Laryngoscope.
This was the first scientific report of controlling HHT epistaxis by spraying the Avastin into the nose.
Retired pilot Jack Sardisco, 63, is one of the patients who has benefitted from Davidson's novel drug-laser therapy.