Avastin Seems to Offer Benefits in Treating Metastatic Breast Cancer

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Avastin (chemical name: bevacizumab) is a targeted therapy medicine approved by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) to be used in combination with Taxol (chemical name: paclitaxel) to treat women diagnosed with HER2-negative metastatic breast cancer that hasn't already been treated with other chemotherapy.

A study found that women diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer treated with Avastin and Taxotere (chemical name: docetaxel) were less likely to have the cancer progress compared to women who only got Taxotere. Both Taxol and Taxotere are taxanes. Cancers treated with Avastin also were more likely to shrink. Some of the women in this study got a high dose of Avastin and others got a lower dose.

  • Cancers treated with a high dose of Avastin plus Taxotere were 28% less likely to progress than cancers treated only with Taxotere 11 months after treatment started.
  • The length of time the cancers treated with a high dose of Avastin plus Taxotere didn't grow was 39% longer than cancers treated only with Taxotere.
  • Cancers treated with a low dose of Avastin plus Taxotere were 21% less likely to progress than cancers treated only with Taxotere 11 months after treatment started.
  • The length of time the cancers treated with a low dose of Avastin plus Taxotere didn't grow was 31% longer than cancers treated only with Taxotere.

Because the benefit difference between the high dose and the low dose of Avastin was small (and because this study wasn't designed to compare the two doses), the researchers didn't want to recommend one dose over the other. Avastin is very expensive: about $4,000 per month for the low dose and $8,000 per month for the high dose. Because of the cost and small difference in benefits, a low dose of Avastin may make sense for many women who will be treated with the drug.

Avastin has a number of potentially serious side effects, including:

  • high blood pressure
  • nose bleeds
  • extra protein in the urine

Avastin also may increase the risk of stroke and heart problems. There weren't any differences in side effects between the low and high doses of Avastin in this study.

If you've been diagnosed with metastatic breast cancer, your doctor may recommend both Avastin (either a low or high dose) and chemotherapy treatment. That recommendation will be based on published research, your doctor's experience using Avastin to treat other people diagnosed with breast cancer, and YOUR unique situation. Together, you and you doctor can make the best treatment choices for YOU.

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