Cancer drug can extend survival in patients with deadly brain tumors

DURHAM, N.C. -- Avastin, a relatively new type of drug that shrinks cancerous tumors by cutting off their blood supply, can slow the growth of the most common and deadly form of brain cancer, a pilot study conducted at Duke University Medical Center has found.

The study marks the first time that Avastin has been tested against brain tumors, the researchers said. The drug, whose chemical name is bevacizumab, currently is used to treat lung and colorectal cancers.

The researchers tested the effectiveness of Avastin in conjunction with a standard chemotherapy agent in patients with recurrent cancerous brain tumors called gliomas. They found that the two drugs together halted tumor growth up to twice as long as comparative therapies. Though gliomas remain incurable in nearly all cases, the combined drug therapy may buy precious time and preserve physical and mental function longer for patients facing this grim diagnosis, the researchers said.

"These results are exciting because of the possible implications for a patient population that currently has the poorest possible prognosis going into treatment, those with malignant brain tumors that have recurred after initial treatment," said James Vredenburgh, M.D., a brain cancer specialist at Dukes Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Center and lead researcher on the study.

The findings will appear in the Feb. 20, 2007, issue of the journal Clinical Cancer Research. The study was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the Preston Robert Tisch Brain Tumor Research Fund, the Bryan Cless Research Fund and Genentech, the maker of Avastin.

Duke currently is participating in a large, multi-institutional study of Avastin to corroborate the results of this initial study, Vredenburgh said.

Kate Carr, president and chief executive officer of Accelerate Brain Cancer Cure, a not-for-profit organization that supports research to hasten a cure for brain cancer, said, "The re

Contact: Lauren Shaftel
Duke University Medical Center

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