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Breast cancer drug dashed

A study of breast cancer drug Avastin failed to show meaningful benefits for patients, US health advisers have said.

A US Food and Drug Administration (FDA) panel of experts voted unanimously 3-0 that the risks and side-effects of Avastin outweighed its benefits when used alongside chemotherapy drug docetaxel.

The FDA approved Avastin for breast cancer patients in 2008 based on a trial that showed it lengthened the amount of time until the disease worsened by more than five months.

As a condition of approval, manufacturer Roche was required to conduct follow-up studies to demonstrate further the benefits of adding Avastin to conventional chemotherapy.


Two follow-up studies recently submitted by the Swiss drug maker did not show the same degree of delay in cancer progression as earlier studies.

Patients taking Avastin did not show significant improvement in lifespan, the gold standard of cancer treatment effectiveness. Additionally, patients taking Avastin reported significant side-effects, including high blood pressure, fatigue and abnormal levels of white blood cells.

Roche scientists argued that patients taking Avastin experienced improved quality of life as tumour growth and other symptoms slowed, but panellists were not convinced.

The panel will vote on whether Avastin's approval for use against breast cancer should be withdrawn in the US. Avastin is also approved for colon, lung, kidney and brain cancer.