Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab) is a targeted therapy medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to treat advanced cancers of the lung, colon, and rectum. Avastin has been studied in combination with chemotherapy medicines such as Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) and Xeloda (chemical name: capecitabine) to treat advanced breast cancer.
A study found that when women diagnosed with advanced breast cancer got both Avastin and Taxol they had more time before the cancer got worse, compared to women who got only Taxol. Still, the combination of Avastin and Taxol didn't improve overall survival.
This could be because the benefits of adding Avastin to Taxol are too small to affect the overall survival of women with advanced breast cancer. It also could be that Avastin's benefits came with side effects, including some that are life-threatening, so overall survival did not improve.
Avastin has a number of potentially serious side effects, including high blood pressure, nose bleeds, and extra protein in the urine. Avastin also may increase the risk of stroke and heart problems.
Recently, 5 of 9 experts on an FDA panel reviewed research on Avastin and recommended the FDA not approve Avastin to treat advanced breast cancer. The FDA hasn't made a final decision yet. The FDA doesn't have to follow the experts' advice, but it usually does so.
If you're being treated for advanced breast cancer, your doctor may still recommend Avastin as part of your treatment plan. The experts on the FDA review panel made their decision based on overall results from the clinical studies. Your doctor's recommendation will be based on information from published research and your doctor's experience with Avastin to treat other people with breast cancer, as well as YOUR unique situation.
Update: In February 2008, the FDA approved the use of Avastin in combination with paclitaxel to treat women diagnosed with HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer. The approval indicated that women who are to be treated with the Avastin-paclitaxel combination must not have received any other chemotherapy medicines to treat metastatic breast cancer. The medicine paclitaxel is sold commercially as Taxol and Abraxane.