Avastin slows progression of lung cancer

ZURICH/LONDON (Reuters) - The results of a study presented on Monday show that Avastin combined with gemcitabine-cisplatin chemotherapy improves the time lung cancer patients live without progression of the disease, according to Swiss drugmaker Roche. There was also a positive trend to extended survival.

Patients with previously untreated, advanced non-small cell lung cancer (NSCLC) survived up to 30 percent longer without disease progression when Avastin was added to the treatment regimen, according to a final analysis of the “Avail” trial presented at the European Society of Medical Oncology in Stockholm.

The tumor response rate increased by up to 70 percent compared with chemotherapy alone, Roche added.

Roche, which is a partner with Genentech in Avastin development, said the study was not powered to demonstrate an overall survival benefit.

As a result -- as previously announced -- there was no statistically significant difference in survival between those who did and did not receive Avastin.

But there were some encouraging signs.

An exploratory analysis of overall survival in patients without second-line therapies showed a trend towards improvement of survival in patients given Avastin compared with those given chemotherapy alone, from 7.3 months to 8.7 months.

All treatment groups in the study demonstrated an average overall survival of more than 13 months.

“Avail confirms for the second time that Avastin provides important clinical benefits and the longest survival reported for patients with advanced non-squamous NSCLC,” said Christian Manegold of Heidelberg University in Mannheim, Germany, the principal investigator of the study.

Avastin works by directly inhibiting vascular endothelial growth factor, a key mediator of the growth of new blood vessels. The lack of blood vessels prevents oxygen from reaching the tumor cells and they die.

The drug is approved in different countries as a treatment for colorectal, lung, breast and kidney cancer.