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 Post subject: Avastin: A tumor-starving cancer drug
PostPosted: Tue Nov 01, 2011 10:39 pm 
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Avastin: A tumor-starving cancer drug By Sharon Biggs Waller | Posted: Thursday, October 27, 2011 12:00 am | Loading…

A tumor-starving cancer treatment is available for cancer patients. The drug, called Avastin (bevacizumab) blocks angiogenesis—the growth of new blood vessels.

This type of drug is a biologic therapy that uses monoclonal antibodies (similar to those found in human cells) to target the mechanism by which cancer grows. Avastin, administered intravenously along with a combination of other cancer medicines, kills cancer indirectly; chemotherapy, for instance, kills directly, but it also attacks healthy cells growing and dividing. With Avastin, normal cells are not targeted. And unless a situation presents itself such as a cut or trauma requiring repair (and growth of new blood vessels), nothing else is affected apart from the tumor.

"Cancer by definition is unregulated growth of cells," says Dr. Michael Method of Michiana Hematology Oncology, PC, in Westville. "The tumor grows irrespective of its neighbors. The tumor must create its own blood vessels to grow, and once it has this, the tumor can grow larger. If you deprive the tumor of nutrients [by cutting off its blood supply] it will die. The other reason why Avastin works is when cancer grows rapidly it creates a disorganized blood supply. In healthy tissue, the blood flow is organized. If the blood flow isn't good, then the chemotherapy drug can't reach the tumor. Avastin stimulates correct blood flow into the tumor in addition to starving it of nutrients, so the chemotherapy is able to work."

Although Avastin has been widely used to treat kidney, lung and colorectal cancers, and some brain tumors for several years, the drug has recently been discovered to benefit women with newly diagnosed and recurring ovarian cancer. The American Society of Clinical Oncology reported that Avastin, given early in the course of the disease, reduced the risk of death.

"This is been a great breakthrough for ovarian cancer in particular," Dr. Method says. "Although there are only approximately 24,000 cases of ovarian cancer each year, 14,000 will die from it."

Dr. Method says there are some side effects such as nosebleeds, especially in dry weather. You can't have elective surgery for six to eight weeks after treatment, because the drug can prevent wound healing. People can have hypertension that requires medication. When treating colorectal cancer, there is a rare incidence of bowel perforation. Avastin is also an expensive treatment.

Avastin research trials are ongoing. To become enrolled in a clinical research trial, go to the National Cancer Institute's website ( and click on "Find a Clinical Trial," or call 1.800.4CANCER. Michiana Hematology Oncology, PC, and its Center for Advanced Cancer Care in Westville is one of such facilities.

For further information, visit

Copyright 2011 All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Posted in Health-care on Thursday, October 27, 2011 12:00 am

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