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Avastin proves effective in treating late-stage cervical cancer

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Avastin (bevacizumab) has been approved for a new use to treat patients with persistent, recurrent or late-stage (metastatic) cervical cancer by the FDA. Cervical cancer grows in the tissues of the lower part of the uterus known as the cervix, and is commonly caused by human papillomaviruses (HPV), spread through sexual contact. Although two vaccines have been licensed to prevent many types of HPV that can cause cervical cancer not enough young girls and women have been getting them. As a result, the National Cancer Institute estimates that 12,360 American women will be diagnosed with cervical cancer and 4,020 will die from the disease in 2014.

“Avastin is the first drug approved for patients with late-stage cervical cancer since the 2006 approval of topotecan with cisplatin,” states Richard Pazdur, M.D., director of the Office of Hematology and Oncology Products in the FDA’s Center for Drug Evaluation and Research. “It is also the first biologic agent approved for patients with late-stage cervical cancer and was approved in less than four months under the FDA’s priority review program, demonstrating the agency’s commitment to making promising therapies available to patients faster.”

The drug works by interfering with the blood vessels that fuel the development of cancerous cells. Its safety and effectiveness was evaluated in a clinical study involving 452 participants with persistent, recurrent, or late-stage disease. Participants were randomly assigned to receive paclitaxel and cisplatin with or without Avastin or paclitaxel and topotecan with or without Avastin. Results showed an increase in overall survival to 16.8 months in participants who received chemotherapy in combination with Avastin as compared to 12.9 months for those receiving chemotherapy alone.

The most common side effects reported by patients during the trials were fatigue, decreased appetite, high blood pressure, hyperglycemia (increased glucose in the blood), a drop in magnesium in the blood, urinary tract infection, headache and decreased weight. Perforations of the gastrointestinal tract and abnormal openings between the gastrointestinal tract and vagina were also reported in patients treated with Avastin.

For more information, women should speak with their oncologists and/or gynecologists.