Cancer drug can fight ovarian tumours

A drug used to treat patients with bowel, breast and lung cancer can also be helpful for women to fight ovarian tumours, according to a new study.

Results of a trial involving 1,528 patients in Britain showed that adding Avastin (bevacizumab) to chemotherapy slows down the development of ovarian cancer.

The disease, which kills thousands of women worldwide a year, is generally diagnosed in its late stages, meaning the outlook for patients is often poor.

The phase III trial on Avastin that followed the success of a US trial earlier this year found that taking the drug along with chemotherapy can enable women to live for 18.3 months without their disease getting worse, compared with 16 months for those given chemotherapy alone, the Telegraph reported.

Dr Tim Perren, from Leeds Teaching Hospitals NHS Trust, said: "These are exciting results showing the improved efficacy provided by bevacizumab when added to standard chemotherapy in ovarian cancer.

"These results will influence treatment decisions and the design of future clinical trials.

"Bevacizumab is the first significant new drug in ovarian cancer since the introduction of paclitaxel in the mid 1990s."

Professor Max Parmar, head of the Medical Research Council clinical trials unit in London, said: "These are exciting preliminary results which significantly add to our understanding of ovarian cancer and its treatment.

"We look forward to discussing the full impact of the trial once we have published the final results in a peer-reviewed journal."

According to researchers, fewer than 40 per cent of women with ovarian cancer live for a further five years after diagnosis and Avastin is the first promising treatment in over a decade.

Those results found women with ovarian cancer had an extra four to six months of life without disease progression when taking Avastin and chemotherapy.

The latest trial involved a lower dose and a shorter course of treatment and included women with high-risk early stage as well as advanced ovarian cancer.

Manufacturer Roche will submit a licence application to the European Medicines Agency later this year with the hope of getting Avastin approved for ovarian cancer.

Annwen Jones, from the charity Target Ovarian Cancer, said: "This is an important step forward in securing more and better treatments for women with ovarian cancer in the UK.

"It has been almost 20 years since the last new treatment for the disease so this is long overdue. This data needs to be seen in the context of the US trial which was reported on earlier this year.

"The overall picture seems to suggest a higher dosage gives greater benefits to women with ovarian cancer."